CAIRO - Egypt's feuding politicians finally met on Thursday, summoned by the country's most influential Islamic scholar who made them call an end to violence after a week of the deadliest protests since President Mohamed Morsi took office.

The meeting, called by the head of the thousand-year-old al-Azhar university and mosque, was attended both by top officials of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and secularist foes who had previously rebuffed the Islamist president's calls for talks.

Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb told the politicians that a national dialogue, "in which all elements of Egyptian society participate, without any exclusion, is the only tool to resolve any problems or differences".

"Political work has nothing to do with violence or sabotage and the welfare of everyone and the fate of our nation depends on respect for the rule of law," the sheikh said.

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