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
    -2

    Comment number 141.

    @136...best hope not because there are bigger nutters this end of the planet than just about everywhere else.....and we are armed to the planet destroying teeth to boot....that'll be all we need........right wing Anglo-Saxon desperadoes with nukes.....

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 140.

    Morsi had or has the support or the majority of Egyptians. Anybody who believes in electoral politics should understand that there are lawful ways to replace a goverment. Egypt is headed for its well-deserved chaotic disaster caused by the mentality of its population. They have no-one else to blame.

  • rate this
    -2

    Comment number 139.

    Democracy is dead in egypt, no one will ever serve their full term, how can the people expect such change in such a short time, this charade has been fuelled by western nations who once again are sticking their rather rancid noses into the countrys business.
    The USA cuts it budget to egypt by half, it seems the USA rewards dictators and punishes democratic reform, vote who we like or suffer.!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 138.

    Mohammed Morsi shoud resign and become the next Newcastle united manager so that he can sign a bunch of Egyptians. I think he's done a bad job at Egypt and needs to be binned off big time, bring back Hussein Al Qarim. He's a good leader and would do a great job with the Egyptian economy

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 137.

    hope and pray Military will not start ruling the country. Then there will be dictatorship and corruption gradually creeping in. This Muslim brotherhood is banned in Syria a deeply secular country uptill now who is doing the fighting there in name of democracy, as USA initially supported the Talibans now parhaps supporting them in Syria.

  • Comment number 136.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 135.

    @117. alfred_son_of_ethelwulf
    10 MINS AGO

    But the place for change is the ballot box, not street violence which normally leads to civil war.

    ++
    I disagree
    Leaders: elected or otherwise hold a balance of power than cannot often be upset at the ballot box.
    Street Protest, on the other hand, can upset societies norms and therefore sometimes the balance of power aswell.
    And rarely cause civil war

  • rate this
    +20

    Comment number 134.

    Islam, the relgion of peace showing its colours yet again

    Im sticking with the Viking gods, at least my fantasies knew how to party.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 133.

    Egypt is for Egyptians, but MB were trying to dissolve the nationand build something in their own imagination. They considered themselves one with Hamas and the Gamaa Islamia and both terrorist groups. In every government post the MB have managed to place one of their one. Incompetence has been the name of the Brotherhood era, people are simply tired of mismanagement and its time they must go.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 132.

    The deception called the Muslim Brotherhood is over.
    The foreign policy of the USA, NATO... headed by the puppet Obama has failed because the Egyptian Civilization has awakened.

    Please show the integrity we have always expected from the BBC and present the world unbiased honest journalism. the whole world is watching, Yet petty news is more important that the largest protest in human history.

  • Comment number 131.

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

  • rate this
    +16

    Comment number 130.

    Political Islam seems to have some difficulty in grasping that democracy is not merely a series of punctual events called elections by which to attain to power. Both in Turkey and in Egypt, popular mandates in recent elections have been misinterpreted by their respective leaders as some kind of license to sideline minorities, ignore alternative viewpoints and bully opposition. Now comes the cost

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 129.

    My favourite god is Poseidon.

    He has that awesome trident thing and he was always causing great big tidal waves, wasn't he! He can also cause lightning and he has chiseled abs.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 128.

    How can 1500 year old beliefs be relevant in governing a country for the modern age. Burning flags and protests won't build a modern state for all its people, religious and non religious.

  • rate this
    -6

    Comment number 127.

    @115.ProfPhoenix. I don't know what UAF stands for? I think if a government is democratically elected then people who truly believe in democracy should NOT be supporting plans to illegally overthrow it! Most of the 'justification' on this HYS centres on the Muslim Brotherhood being an Islamic party! So what if they are! Only racists/religious bigots would think it's justified on that basis alone!

  • Comment number 126.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 125.

    he should step down to prevent more crises if he love his country.chech what iran president did.such shows he love his country

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 124.

    Democracy or Theocracy....or Military Junta? I know which one my money's on right now!

  • Comment number 123.

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

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 122.

    For the most part Egyptians agree that religion and state should be kept seperate its the Arab Republic of Egypt not the Islamic Republic of Egypt. These protests are direct evidence of this belief. While women and non muslims are protesting for obvious reasons the vast majority of those protesting are Muslims.

    'Religion is between you and your god, not between you and your government'

 

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