News Column

Morsi, Crowds Defiant in Face of Army Ultimatum

July 2, 2013

Tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets nationwide on Tuesday in rival rallies, after President Mohammed Morsi criticized an ultimatum by the military demanding a resolution to a deepening political crisis.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group has called on its supporters to take to the streets in support of the president. Pro-Morsi protesters outside Cairo University shouted "Islamic" and "Legitimacy" while others continued their sit-in near a major mosque in eastern Cairo.

They have vowed that Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, will complete his four-year term, which only began a year ago.

Morsi's opponents gathered in Tahrir Square and near the presidential palace after opposition groups vowed to demonstrate until the president resigned.

Hundreds also headed to another presidential palace, where Morsi is rumoured to be staying.

Demonstrators took to the streets in the northern province of Alexandria and Menoufiya as well as Northern Sinai to demand early presidential elections.

The military said on Monday it would announce measures by Wednesday to end the political stalemate, after millions of people took to the streets across Egypt to demand Morsi step down.

The presidential spokesman said in a statement that Morsi was not consulted by the military on the 48-hour ultimatum.

After Morsi's defiant statement, the army released footage taken by military helicopters of the masses that rallied against Morsi on Sunday, marking his first anniversary in power.

Moreover, Egyptian troops were shown training in the streets of the Red Sea city of Suez, according to footage on Al Jazeera's Egyptian arm, Al Jazeera Masr.

The presidency said Morsi met with Defence Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi and Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to discuss the political deadlock, without elaborating.

An army spokesman denied criticism from Morsi's supporters that the statement amounted to a military coup, saying it was aimed at pushing all political factions to reach consensus.

More than 20 people have been killed in clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents since Sunday. Protesters stormed the headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group in Cairo and torched their offices in other provinces.

The New York-based Human Rights Watch group said that police and other security forces failed to deploy sufficient personnel in key locations despite anticipation of widespread violence.

"Whatever happens over the next few days, all sides should take all possible steps to ensure that their supporters avoid violence and use of lethal force," said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director at HRW.

The largely secular opposition accuses Morsi of serving the interests of his Muslim Brotherhood group, and failing to revive a tattered economy. The opposition wants a new presidential election and constitution.

The hardline Salafist al-Nour Party called on Morsi to schedule early elections, saying they wanted to prevent a slide toward a civil war.

The unprecedented large-scale protests have prompted some ministers to resign. Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr is the most high-profile cabinet member to resign so far.

Adding more pressure on Morsi, Egypt's top appeals court upheld a decision to remove prosecutor general Talaat Abdullah, whose appointment in November angered judges and opposition groups.

The opposition accused Abdullah of being biased for the ruling Islamists, pointing to investigations against journalists and activists critical of Morsi and his government.

US President Barack Obama urged Morsi during a phone conversation on Monday to respond to the demonstrators' concerns, the White House said in a statement.

"He stressed that democracy is about more than elections; it is also about ensuring that the voices of all Egyptians are heard and represented by their government, including the many Egyptians demonstrating throughout the country," the statement said.

The United Nations also called on Morsi to "listen to the demands and wishes of the Egyptian people, expressed during these huge protests" and to address key issues raised by the opposition and civil society in recent months.

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Source: Copyright 2013 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH

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