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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Egypt in transition

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  • Comment number 261.

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

  • Comment number 260.

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

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 259.

    If there is a coup the Brotherhood would not let it stand and answer might with might. America is entering another Iraq and another defeat awaits the racist Western mindset.

    The coup would be a very good news for Assad and Iran. A lot of Wahabi legions would have to be transferred to Egypt from Syria and for the first time the suicide bombers would be dying for democracy.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 258.

    The Muslim Brotherhood has also broken one of the very few peace treaties in the Middle East. The Camp David Peace Accords. Both Egyptians and Israelis should feel betrayed by this.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 257.

    This is not going to end well.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 256.

    Power to the PEOPLE! The Egyptian people have spoken. If indeed 25% of the population has asked for change then their leaders should listen and act. As for the US government being involved who knows? If it is true then I apologize for the Frankenstein we have created. Our people for the most part have good intentions, our government now shocks us daily. Kudos for the Egyptians, braver than us.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 255.

    253. Ackwern
    " If a government is democratically elected but illiberal is it a valid government?"

    Here we arrived at last. It appeared that many of those who claim to be democrats actually mean "liberal democracy" every time when they say "democracy" - they are just shy of appending the word "liberal" to "democracy" too often. They honestly cannot imagine that "demos" may refuse to follow them.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 254.

    251. MOHara
    " My point is that people are fed up with cloned, puppet politicians who never deliver a thing they promise."

    Sorry, but I have no other politicians for you. There is an interesting difference between "politician" and "statesman". The problem now is that there are too many politicians and too few statesmen. Well, profession vs. vocation - modern world favors the former., you know..

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 253.

    The usual conundrum. If a government is democratically elected but illiberal is it a valid government? If a government favours sections of the population according to religious tenets to the detriment of those of other beliefs, even if that appeals to the majority, is it valid? This is the philosophical debate that is the problem after the Arab Spring, in particular, but not exclusively.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 252.

    Maybe in Egypt (or even more generally in the Middle East) the democracy needs general election every year, and not once in 4-5 years as it is accustomed in the West? Indeed, which deity had set 4-5 years between elections? Or what an indisputable reason dictated it? It is just a tradition, custom - but it is purely western tradition/custom, foreign and perhaps unnatural for North Africa.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 251.

    RE:250
    What's brewing? Anger. There are different results so far and I have no idea where it will end. But something is, indeed, going on. The rest? Tunisia, Greece, Bulgaria, the Tuareg, Scotland, Venezuela, OWS & UKIP for starters. A mixed field with some unattractive entries. My point is that people are fed up with cloned, puppet politicians who never deliver a thing they promise.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 250.

    @248
    "something is brewing" - what? And who are "the rest"?

  • Comment number 249.

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

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 248.

    Egyptians want rid of Morsi not because they are 'not ready for democracy' but because last time around the Army (i.e the US) blocked the candidacy of al-Bareidi and others. Egyptians were offered a choice between bad and worse - the same 'choice' we in the 'mature' democracies face cycle after cycle. But something is brewing and Egypt, Turkey, Brazil and the rest are leading the way.

  • rate this
    +4

    Comment number 247.

    Judging from the posts here, the USA is being blamed for supporting a) Morsi, b) the opposition and c) the army. It is true that Americans tend to forget that they fought each other in the bloodiest war of the 19th century, and believe that democracy can heal all wounds, but blaming them for everything is simply evidence of doctrinaire teaching.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 246.

    I think if Islamists fall in Egypt, that will be the catalyst for the rest of North Africa. Westerners were naïve to think that people who lived in religious freedoms and with women's rights, suddenly will go back to the middle ages. The same thing is true in Syria, no wonder no one wants the rebels after beheading everyone who do not agree with them. Assad is a 100 times better than any Jihadi.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 245.

    48 hours the we kill you!

    Great.

    When will the EU be inviting them to join?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 244.

    Looks like the days of single minded god fearing regime are under threat.
    The commonality between Morsi supporters and Erdogan supporters is always the threat of violence. Well if this what god fearing means then me thinks they're fearing the wrong thing. Oopsy daisy then. Funny how the internet is liberating peoples minds.

  • rate this
    +7

    Comment number 243.

    The reason for the instability in the Middle East is that the most powerful nations in the region (Egypt, Iran and Israel) are under the control of religious extremists pushing divine right and manifest destiny over their main religion and the region. Until all 3 of these countries dump or are forced to dump those extremists currently in office, there will be no improvement in the Middle East.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 242.

    @204
    Er, examples of the decline you say that secularism brings please.

 

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