PARIS (Reuters) - French President Francois Hollande summoned Egypt's ambassador on Thursday, demanding a quick end to the state of emergency imposed by the military authorities and urging the release of prisoners as a first step towards renewing dialogue.
Hollande relayed France's "very serious concern" about Wednesday's crackdown on supporters of Egypt's deposed Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and "underlined that the state of emergency must be quickly lifted".
At least 525 people were killed in the clashes on Wednesday when police and soldiers used bulldozers, teargas and live ammunition to clear out two Cairo sit-ins that had become a hub of resistance to the military by Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood.
The army-installed government then declared a month-long state of emergency and imposed a dusk-to-dawn curfew on the capital and 10 other provinces after the raids, which further polarized a nation still in turmoil more than two years after mass protests unseated the then president Hosni Mubarak.
The decision to forcibly clear the sit-ins defied Western appeals for restraint and a negotiated settlement to the crisis, and there has been swift condemnation from many capitals. The Brotherhood branded it a "massacre".
"(Hollande) firmly condemned the bloody violence in Egypt and demanded an immediate halt to the crackdown," the Elysee Palace said in a statement.
"The head of state asserted that everything must be done to avoid civil war. Freeing prisoners, in respect of legal proceedings, could be a first step towards the resumption of talks."
Dozens of Brotherhood members have been rounded up since Mursi was overthrown by the army on July 3 after protests against his rule a year after he was elected. Mursi himself remains in detention at an undisclosed location on allegations of murder and spying.
Berlin, London and Rome also called in Egypt's ambassadors over Wednesday's crackdown.
German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle condemned the violence during a trip to Tunisia - trying to contain its own crisis after the killing of an opposition figure two years after its president was ousted in the first Arab Spring uprising.
He said the Egyptian government had an obligation to protect peaceful demonstrators and to allow peaceful protests.
Britain said it had called in the ambassador on Wednesday to express "deep concern at the escalating violence and unrest". Ecuador also recalled its ambassador to Egypt for consultations.
Pope Francis made an appeal for the end of the violence. "Let us pray together for peace, dialogue, and reconciliation in that beloved land and in the whole world," the pontiff said during his Angelus prayer.
(Reporting by Alexandria Sage in Paris, Estelle Shirbon in London, Steve Scherer in Rome, Sabine Siebold in Berlin; Editing by Alison Williams)