News Column

Egyptian Army Ousts Morsi, Suspends Constitution

July 3, 2013

Egyptian military authorities said President Mohamed Morsi has been ousted and the Egyptian Constitution has been suspended pending early elections.

Cheers broke out among massive crowds of protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo and in other Egyptian cities after military officials announced the development in an address televised nationwide.

State media reported opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei will join with Coptic Church and Sunni Muslim leaders in publicly presenting a road map for the country's future, al-Jazeera said.

The military announcement said the chief justice of Egypt's constitutional court will act as head of state on an interim basis.

Egyptian army divisions were deployed in Cairo and other cities Wednesday to prevent violence after Morsi was removed from the palace, media reports said. In what Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party called a military coup, tanks were deployed in the capital's streets and soldiers beefed up their presence in other cities after a 48-hour ultimatum delivered by the army failed to secure Morsi's resignation.

"The president is no longer able to make any political decisions now and a decision has been taken to prevent leaders loyal to the current regime from traveling overseas until the General Command of the Armed Forces are finished formulating their expected statement," the Arabic language daily al-Ahram said.

At the U.S. State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Wednesday conditions in Egypt were fluid and it was not possible to confirm a coup had been staged.

"We do ... remain very concerned about what we're seeing on the ground," Psaki said.

The army enforced a state of emergency and imposed a travel ban on Morsi and other Muslim Brotherhood officials, barring them from leaving the country, al-Ahram reported.

Soldiers were deployed inside the state television building in the capital, waiting to receive the order to broadcast a statement from the armed forces to the nation later in the evening, Israel's Channel 10 and Channel One reported. The army surrounded protesters in Tahrir Square and beefed up its presence in other cities, while millions of Egyptians waited for the army's broadcast.

Clashes between pro and anti-Morsi protesters were reported in Alexandria and Giza.

Muslim Brotherhood officials called on supporters to oppose Morsi's ouster in a non-violent manner while Salafists called for use of every means against the move, Israel's Channel 10 said.

At least 46 people were reported killed Tuesday and early Wednesday.

"One mistake that cannot be accepted, and I say this as president of all Egyptians, is to take sides," Morsi said in the statement issued by his office before he was reported removed from the presidential palace. "Justice dictates that the voice of the masses from all squares should be heard."

Army chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi met Wednesday afternoon with military commanders and members of the opposition to discuss developments.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled Egypt for more than 16 months after the Feb. 11, 2011, ouster of President Hosni Mubarak, told al-Ahram it would "abolish the controversial constitution" and form a committee of experts to write a new charter, if Morsi refused to step down.

The military council would also create an interim presidential council with three members led by the Supreme Constitutional Court's chief justice and put a military leader in charge of the executive branch as an interim prime minister, the newspaper said under the banner headline "Dismissal or Resignation."

The 21 military leaders said they saw the council overseeing a "map of the future for a period ranging between nine months and one year," the newspaper said.

Mahmoud Badr, a rebel leader, said at a Wednesday news conference the army supports the people and it is "the Egyptian people who will give orders to the armed forces to move," Ahram Online reported. He rejected claims by the Muslim Brotherhood that the army planned a military coup saying it was more a "popular coup."

In a midnight address broadcast on state television, Morsi rejected calls by protesters and the council for him to resign.

"The people empowered me, the people chose me, through a free and fair election," he said.

"Legitimacy is the only way to protect our country and prevent bloodshed, to move to a new phase. Legitimacy is the only thing that guarantees for all of us that there will not be any fighting and conflict, that there will not be bloodshed."

However, he said, "If the price of protecting legitimacy requires my own blood, then I am willing to pay it."

He blamed the nation's instability on the Mubarak regime and on those who sought to hijack youth frustration against him.

"When we call for jihad, we call for it toward the enemies of this nation. We never call jihad against one another," Morsi said.

Shortly after his speech, a statement issued on his Cabinet's official Twitter account condemned Morsi's address.

"The Cabinet declares its rejection of Dr. Morsi's speech and his pushing the country toward a civil war," the statement said. "The Cabinet announces taking the side of the people."

It was not immediately clear whether the message was legitimate. The Cabinet spokesman had previously resigned.

Source: Copyright UPI 2013

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