Egypt on knife-edge as army gives Morsi 48 hour ultimatum

Egyptian military helicopters trailing national flags circle over Tahrir Square during a protest demanding that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi resign in Cairo. The military says Morsi and the opposition must resolve the crisis or it will impose its 'road plan for peace.' (Suhaib Salem/Reuters)
Egyptian military helicopters trailing national flags circle over Tahrir Square during a protest demanding that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi resign in Cairo. The military says Morsi and the opposition must resolve the crisis or it will impose its ‘road plan for peace.’ (PHOTO: Suhaib Salem/Reuters)

Government officials resign, Coptic Pope supports rebels

Compiled from reports by CBNFox News, Ahram Online and The Times of Israel

Egypt’s army issued a powerful warning via Egyptian state television that it will intervene if President Mohammad Morsi doesn’t “meet the people’s demands.”  It gave Morsi and his opponents 48 hours to reach an agreement.

“If the people’s demands are not achieved before the agreed period of time, then it is the duty of the military…to announce a roadmap for the future,” army officials said on Monday afternoon.

The embattled Islamist president however rejected the ultimatum, saying he is continuing with his plans for dialogue and reconciliation with his opponents. His office says it was not consulted before the military made its statement which  “deepens the division between the people” and “may threaten the social peace no matter what the motivation.”

Foreign minister steps down
The Egyptian foreign minister, Mohamed Kamel Amr, was reported today to be the latest in a wave of high-ranking officials to quit the government after millions of demonstrators took to the streets over the past few days demanding that Morsi step down. The Interior Ministry, whose police officers have been in open revolt against Mr. Morsi, issued its own statement endorsing the military’s intervention — another reminder of the breakdown in authority over the holdover institutions of the Mubarak government.

Egypt’s Coptic Orthodox Pope Tawadros II expressed his support today for the nationwide anti-government protests and the rebel campaign that calls on Morsi to resign.

“It is wonderful to see the Egyptian people taking back their stolen revolution in a peaceful way, through the idea of Rebel and its youth,” he said in a statement via Twitter.

Copts have been critical of Morsi’s leadership and of the 2013 constitution that was seen as favourable to Islamists. Clashes between Copts and Muslims have left dozens dead in the past months. However, sectarian strife in Egypt has existed before Morsi assumed power.

Anti-Morsi protesters have welcomed the army’s ultimatum announcement.

“We are very happy here,” an anti-Morsi demonstrator named Rita said. “We never lost confidence in our army; we always trusted that our army will be with us. We are very proud, we are very happy. We are proud to be Egyptians. Egyptians made it.”

Coup fear
Morsi supporters fear the army is poised to take over.

“It is clear that the army is planning a coup,” Morsi supporter Mohammed Amir said. “The army must support the legitimacy of the president and the legitimacy of the constitution.”

Since Sunday, the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration, millions of Egyptians have poured into the streets to demand that he leave office.

One commentator called it the biggest mass demonstration in human history.

After one year in office, they say Morsi put the goals of the Muslim Brotherhood ahead of the good of Egypt. Some say the current crisis puts the Muslim Brotherhood at a crossroads.

“The next step for the Brotherhood is one of two choices: either to revert to violence — and then they will suffer for the next I don’t know how many years for that decision — or just decide to keep it peaceful and respond to people’s demands, and then maybe we’re looking forward for national reconciliation between all of us,” Egyptian leader Shadi Ghazali Harb said.

US President Barack Obama, who is wrapping up a visit to several African nations, called for restraint and compromise on both sides.

Yet many in the opposition accuse the Obama administration of helping the Muslim Brotherhood come to power.

What the army will do when the 48-hour ultimatum expires remains to be seen.

Organizers of the mass demonstrations say if Morsi does not step down, they’ll intensify their campaign, including civil disobedience.

Turnout underscores depth of anti-Morsi animosity
The turnout at mass demonstration on Sunday surprised almost everyone: the crowds were far larger — running into the millions — and less violent than expected. The result not only underscored the depth of the animosity against Morsi but also dispelled Brotherhood arguments that a conspiracy of Mubarak “remnants” accounted for most of the opposition in the streets.

By by Monday morning clashes between Brotherhood supporters and opponents had left 15 dead across the country. Protesters attacked several Brotherhood offices. In Cairo a mob attacked the Brotherhood’s headquarters with Molotov cocktails, setting it on fire, breaking down its doors and looting the building.

The Health Ministry reported eight deaths outside the building, six from gunshots.

In the southern Egyptian city of Assiut,  a known haven for radical Islamists,  members of the traditionally low-profile Christian minority were among an estimated crowd of 50 000 anti-Morsi protesters. The demonstration  prompted a violent response that left three people dead.

Protest organizers gave Morsi until Tuesday to resign and threatened a general strike. Protesters chained or blockaded government offices in 11 provinces. By evening, the crowds in several cities had grown to the hundreds of thousands again.

Many of the demonstrators now calling for Morsi’s ouster had spent months last year marching to demand that the military give up its hold on power, but when the military’s announcement was broadcast over the radio on Monday, cheers erupted.

Hassan Ismail, a local organizer, rejected any compromise that left Mr. Morsi in office and at the same time sought to distance his movement from its new military allies. “We don’t want to be against the army,” Ismail said. “And we don’t want the army to be against us.”

 

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