"There are groups of policemen on strike. I understand them. They are protesting the pressure they are under, the attacks from the media," the minister said. "They work in hard conditions and exert everything they can and are not met with appreciation or thanks."

Egypt's police and internal security forces are widely hated and seen as a legacy of the rule of ousted President Hosni Mubarak, when they were notorious for abuses, torture and crackdowns on political opponents, including the Brotherhood.

Ibrahim said the strike is minor and is not affecting the capabilities of the force. Instead, dragging the police into the political dispute between the opposition and the ruling Islamists is exhausting the force, he said.

"I only ask all (political) forces to leave the police out of the political equation and the conflict that is taking place," Ibrahim said.

He said he is talking with the striking policemen, who, he said are demanding better armament.

He dismissed charges that the Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is dictating his ministry's policies.

"There is no interference by anyone in the work of the ministry. Rest assured," he told reporters.

He said "infiltrators" among the protesters target police with live ammunition, birdshot and firebombs, to draw the force into using violence.

In the country's Islamist-led Shura Council, the upper house of the legislature, members criticized the striking police, accusing them of dereliction of duty and allowing chaos to spread. One called for banning strikes by police, while another accused former regime officials of conspiring to undermine Morsi's rule and hold on power.

"We are facing a very tight conspiracy that aims to destroy any legitimacy," said Hassan Youssef Abdel-Ghaffour of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party.

Egypt's new constitution granted the Shura council temporary power to legislate following a court order disbanding the more powerful lower house last year.

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