Egypt rules out foreign protection for churches

The protection of places of worship in Egypt is the responsibility of the government, an Egyptian minister said on Wednesday, ruling out foreign security for Coptic Christians attacked this week.

A New Year's Day attack on a Copt church in Egypt that killed 21 people has raised alarm about the safety of Christians in the Middle East with calls for Europe to come up with a coordinated response.

"We will not allow any foreign party to protect the Copts in Egypt because that would infringe on the exclusive responsibility of our government," Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit said during a visit to Morocco.

Egypt is on high alert Monday ahead of the Coptic Christmas on January 7.

"The places of worship in Europe, the churches as well as the mosques, are also concerned about the question of protection," the minister said at a press conference with his Moroccan counterpart, Taieb Fassi Fihri.

French Foreign Minister Michele Alliot-Marie on Tuesday called on Europe to come up with a coordinated response to attacks on the Middle East's Christians, including asylum but also ways for people "to stay in their homes".

The Egyptian minister, visiting Morocco as part of a regional tour, said investigations were still under way to find out who was responsible for the New Year's Day attack, which also wounded 79 people.

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