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
    +1

    Comment number 121.

    Can we stage a protest assembly in London demanding the removal of Cameron and his loathed coalition government?

    At least the Muslim Brotherhood were actually elected into power at some point!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 120.

    The army is the only logical solution to hold together a country that seems to be ungovernable.

    Morsi's power grab has to be halted and reversed - people power, like in Brazil & Turkey, seeks to smash through malgovernance and autocratic power. Morsi describes his new Islamist regime as being democratic but it's not - it's more tyrannical than Mubarak ever was.

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 119.

    What if the next Egyptian president doesn't deliver, will we have regular mass demonstrations every year / month / week? And will the Army have to intervene?
    What if the new government pleases secularists and displeases "Islamists"? If the "Islamists" decide to march in millions, will their marches be publicised?
    Like him or not, Morsi was elected and the best way to remove him is by elevtion

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 118.

    It will all end in tears.

    Egyptians need to recognise that with the exceptionally poor state of their country, & finances + recession, all that they demand will take many years, if at all possible & they will get nowhere if each opposition continually demonstrates & riots in an attempt to expel government

    Also, many civil servants & government executives are still the corrupt old school mob

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 117.

    109.readwriteandblue

    Expressing concerns about our leaders is a democratic right. I can't stand our current set of politicians, and moan about them all the time. I yearn for a fairer sort of politics. But the place for change is the ballot box, not street violence which normally leads to civil war. I fear this will be the result in Egypt.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 116.

    @100.All for All
    What western country fits that 'criteria'??
    The UK DEFINATELY doesn't! Neither does the USA! Sweden might ..in fact Scandinavian countries in gereral ..JUST might! But the UK/USA DEFINATELY don't and even though the UK has 'elected dictatorships' it's commonly accepted you don't just overthrow them! Even Thatchers government didn't face being illegally overthrown!

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 115.

    106. Da_Happy_Londoner
    racists and anti Islamic bigots on this HYS! ... They hold 'extreme' views - call for the overthrow of a democratically elected government .'support' the idea of the army seizing power! How are they ANY better/different to racist fascists??
    @ This sounds like a UAF statement; any chance of a UAF Brigade for Egyptian democracy? 'We are Cairo, blah de blah.No platform for xxx

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 114.

    People seem to forget the fact that there were 2 liberal candidates for the presidency which unfortunately split the vote and it was left between MB & Mubarak era Candidate, the election was fair but it certainly wasn't what the people wanted. So to call Egyptians idiots for voting Morsi in the first place is not only insulting its innacurate.

  • Comment number 113.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 112.

    how sad for Mr Morsi who believed that the Egyptian people would allowed him to hijacked their revolution (the way Khomeini did when the Iranians push out the Shah) moderation comes when all the parties are involved to rebuild the country not what the agenda of the Muslim brotherhood wants Mr Morsi ..the military did the right thing either you compromise or step down

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 111.

    The most noticable thing for me watching Egypt protests
    was that the people against Morsi included women
    and the people for Morsi did not include any women

    Women and non Muslims especially fear what the Muslim Brotherhood will do to them

    It is very brave of these protesters to take a stand against Islamic extremism
    putting their lives at risk
    for their future generations to be free

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 110.

    Has anyone ever seen an Islamist president to step down peacefully? I didn't and i doubt that this one will be any different. There always have to be thousands of deaths until a situation like this is resolved and the solution does never work. It's just the way it is. History always tries to teach us our mistakes, but what of it when no one is listening to her.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 109.

    104. alfred_son_of_ethelwulf

    David Cameron elected with 36.1 % of the popular vote.
    +++
    Cameron is PM Not a Head of State .
    Besides do you really think people should not call for leaders heads, just because they were elected ? Seriously??.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 108.

    I do recall HYS during the early stages of the Arab Spring with so much support for the 'benign' 'moderate' Muslim Brotherhood. And BBC correspondents out there banging the drum for them. Its all gone wrong hasn't it. In future, BBC, stick to reporting what is under your nose, and not pursue a political agenda.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 107.

    Nobody said Democracy was easy, the Egyptians are just doing a crash course in it. Maybe the President should seed Financial and Business control to the Parliament, where it can be debated, and just act as a figurehead and act as a vehicle for Egyptian attention and consensus seeking...at the moment, the protests are about rights/Jobs and the Economy, that's too much for just ONE MAN..

  • rate this
    -24

    Comment number 106.

    racists and anti Islamic bigots on this HYS! I think if they JUST picked up read a history book! I'm sure they wouldn't! As sure there is NO place for 'education' in their racist /bigoted minds! They hold 'extreme' views - call for the overthrow of a democratically elected government .'support' the idea of the army seizing power! How are they ANY better/different to racist fascists??

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 105.

    It will all end it tears.. and blood ... and somehow the West getting the blame.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 104.

    Mohamed Morsi elected with 51.7% of popular vote
    Barack Obama elected with 51.1% of the popular vote
    David Cameron elected with 36.1 % of the popular vote

    So much for democracy !!! Poor precedent being set. Shouldn't we be supporting the democratically elected government ??

  • Comment number 103.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 102.

    Egypt is similar to Turkey in that both cases,
    the people are protesting against Islamic law overtaking their country

    Everyone has seen the results in the Taliban, al Qaeda, Noku Haram, etc in what happens when Islamic hardliners take over

    Egyptians know if they give up their freedoms to the Muslim Brotherhood,
    they might not ever get them back

 

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