Egypt's army gives parties 48 hours to resolve crisis

 

Protesters gathered in Cairo for a second consecutive day calling on Mr Morsi to go

Egypt's army has given the country's rival parties 48 hours to resolve a deadly political crisis.

The army would offer a "road map" for peace if Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his opponents failed to heed "the will of the people", it said.

It later issued a clarifying statement denying its warning amounted to a coup.

Given the inability of politicians from all sides to agree until now, it seems unlikely Mr Morsi can survive in power, says the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Cairo.

On Sunday millions rallied in cities nationwide, urging the president to quit.

Large protests continued on Monday, and eight people died as activists stormed and ransacked the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood, to which the president belongs.

He became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair following the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

Jubilant protesters
Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of Egypt's armed forces, left, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil and President Mohammed Morsi An undated photograph posted on the president's Facebook page showed Mr Morsi (right) smiling with Gen Sisi and Prime Minister Hisham Qandil

The head of the armed forces described Sunday's protests as an "unprecedented" expression of the popular will.

Analysis

The statement by the minister of defence and army chief, Gen al-Sisi, was worded carefully.

It did not say the president must go. The army, with troops in strategic positions across Cairo, is saying the government and opposition have 48 hours to agree a way forward or it will intervene with its own plan.

The Egyptian military has been both hero and villain for the people involved in the ousting of President Mubarak in 2011.

Heroes, first of all, when they put themselves between protesters and the Mubarak regime's enforcers. But later they were widely criticised for holding onto power for too long.

The reality is they have never given up their critical role behind the scenes, which includes huge economic power.

No matter which way Egypt goes - and there could be some very rough days ahead - the army will never want its own power diluted.

In a statement read out by a spokesman on state television on Monday evening, Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the army would not get involved in politics or government.

There were scenes of flag-waving jubilation in Cairo's Tahrir Square, where supporters of Tamarod (Rebel) - the opposition movement behind the protests - interpreted the statement as spelling the end for a president they accuse of putting the Brotherhood's interests ahead of the country's as a whole.

As five helicopters flew over the square with huge Egyptian flags hanging below them, the crowds chanted: "The army and the people are one hand."

In the Mediterranean city of Port Said, crowds set off fireworks and sang the national anthem in Martyrs' Square. Some protesters clambered onto police vehicles to celebrate, in what BBC Arabic's Attia Nabil at the scene says was a show of better relations between the police and the people.

And protesters conducting a sit-in outside Mr Morsi's house in Zagazig pledged to remain until a clear plan for handing over power was enacted.

But a second statement posted on the military's Facebook page late on Monday emphasised the army "does not aspire to rule and will not overstep its prescribed role".

"Our earlier statement's purpose was to push all parties to find a quick solution to the current crisis... to push towards a national consensus that responds to the people's demands," said the statement.

An undated photograph posted on the president's official Facebook page showed Mr Morsi smiling with Gen Sisi and Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.

A senior member of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said a solution to the crisis "will be in the framework of the constitution".

Quentin Sommerville reports from outside the presidential palace

"The age of military coups is over," Yasser Hamza, a member of the FJP's legal committee, told Al Jazeera TV.

And senior Brotherhood figure Mohammed al-Beltagi urged thousands of pro-Morsi supporters, gathered outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr district, to "call their families in all Egyptian governorates and villages to be prepared to take to the streets and fill squares" to support their president.

"Any coup of any sort will only pass over our dead bodies," he said to a roar from the crowd.

Local media reported that a late-night press conference by the Egyptian presidency had been cancelled.

Ministers resign

The opposition movement had given Mr Morsi until Tuesday afternoon to step down and call fresh presidential elections, or else face a campaign of civil disobedience.

On Saturday, the group said it had collected more than 22 million signatures - more than a quarter of Egypt's population - in support.

But Mr Morsi was defiant in an interview published on Sunday, rejecting calls for early presidential elections.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad Haddad told the BBC the roadmap referred to by Gen Sisi did not necessarily increase pressure on the president to call early presidential elections.

Rather, he said, the pressure was on Egypt's constitutional court to swiftly issue a new parliamentary law and to call for parliamentary elections.

Meanwhile, the al-Watan website said the ministers of tourism, environment, communication and legal affairs had resigned in an act of "solidarity with the people's demand to overthrow the regime".

US President Barack Obama has called for restraint on all sides, saying the potential for violence remained.

Although it was not the job of the US to choose Egypt's leaders, it wanted to make sure all voices were heard, said Mr Obama during a visit to Tanzania.

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  • rate this
    +52

    Comment number 21.

    Democracy or Theocracy, they're mutually exclusive.

  • rate this
    +25

    Comment number 20.

    This isn't an attack against Islam.. nor is it an Anti-Brotherhood demonstration. This is about employing a Shiekh to fix your bathroom. You need a plumber. He is not qualified to lead Egypt. He should get a job in his local mosque, but to lead a country out of economical crisis, you need a bit more than just verses from the Quran.

    Amazing to see muslims FINALLY understanding what the MB is about

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    In fact, the MB have given Islam a bad name. No fault of Islam, but a great fault with the Brotherhood. I know the district of Shubra in Cairo well, mixed Muslim and Christian... and peaceful with all respecting each other.. something all great religions are about. The MB have perverted that point sadly.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 18.

    .

    There is some change in Egypt, 'Nasara' for example, was an Egyptian insult for Christians, now it's their common name!


    .

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 17.

    Assuming that it is true - that 22 million people are against Morsi, that surely does not constitute a majority. A democracy does not ensure that everyone will be satisfied with the results of any election. Morsi won fair and square...he won't be leaving anytime soon.

    First Syria, then Turkey, now Eqypt...continual discontent?

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 16.

    Politics and Religion the scourge of mankind since the dawn of time, both are engaged in the oldest profession - selling themselves body and soul for as much as they can get.

    Difficult times ahead when the military is the honest broker.

  • rate this
    +63

    Comment number 15.

    Egypt needs to choose ...........Islam or Democracy- you can't have both.

  • rate this
    +52

    Comment number 14.

    Democracy is not just about majority rule but also all party consensus on the rules of the game.

    From day 1, the MB attempted to take control of all state institutations to obtain absolute power for themselves, brutally repress all opposition, and to force a way of life on all Egyptians that is repulsive to half the Egyptian people. The army may therefore be preventing civil war.

  • rate this
    +14

    Comment number 13.

    El-Sisi has signaled that the game is over as we all knew, Mursi may not go tonight - I am sure the Brotherhood well know that in proper, free and fair elections they stand no chance. The Egyptian people are on the brink of rebuilding their country and I salute them.

  • rate this
    -9

    Comment number 12.

    The government was elected democratically what else do Egyptians want? Everyday demonstration,If I were a David or Obama I would pretended as I am a non existent person.

  • rate this
    -4

    Comment number 11.

    @4
    The gov have already taken steps so this could never happen in the UK by killing off most of the armed forces
    We would have to arm the scout movement and take them with us when we march on number 10:D

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 10.

    Vive la Revolution!!

  • rate this
    -5

    Comment number 9.

    .

    Q. What can we say about democracy in Egypt?

    A. It only happened the once!

    .

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 8.

    There's no democracy where there's a state religion, not in Egypt, not in Iran, not in England, not anywhere.It's even worse when the government is a theocracy.Egypt has a large percentage of its population being young and illiterate.This does not bode well for democracy.The voters made a horrible mistake voting in Morsi and his gang of Islamists.Will that be fixed?The military would be preferable

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 7.

    Will Hague and Cameron be arming the Tamarod rebels?

  • rate this
    +36

    Comment number 6.

    For the first time in my life I think that a military takeover would be a good thing. Anything to avoid an Islamist government, voted in by people who know no better, under pressure from religious leaders. Religion and politics should be totally and utterly separate.

  • rate this
    +66

    Comment number 5.

    As a Christian from the Middle East, I attended these demonstrations. It was amazing to be alongside devout muslims FED UP of the Muslim Brotherhood. One chant we said together was :"We do not a terrorist leader, nor a wahabi constitution". Ultimately, the problem is this: we have employed an Imam to fix the plumbing in a house with a leak. You need a plumber! Morsi needs a job in a mosque.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 4.

    I know this is incredibly naïve and rose-tinted but I like to think of the military as the good guys in this. Maybe we'd all march for a change if the army started looming around outside the House of Commons each time our feckless lot ignored our wishes? It's likely we'd need a barracks built on site I imagine... :p

  • rate this
    +28

    Comment number 3.

    The Muslim brotherhood being kicked out of power would be good for everyone. Obviously the BBC would be crying into their skinny-latte, as they supported them to the hilt.

    However, I don't see them going quietly and we certainly don't want another Syria.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 2.

    Mohamed Morsi's election as the fifth President of Egypt, on 30 June 2012 was the end of a democratic process. On 8 July, Mohamed Morsi issued a decree calling back into session the dissolved parliament for July 10, 2012. He also called for new parliamentary elections to be held within 60 days of the adoption of a new constitution for the country. Now Egypt needs to embrace democratic change.

 

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