Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi vowed not to resign in a TV address late Tuesday and rejected an army ultimatum giving him until 3pm GMT Wednesday to cede to protester demands as an attack on a pro-Morsi rally in Cairo left at least 16 dead.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi vowed not to leave office despite days of protest in which hundreds of thousands have called for his ouster in a televised address in which he reiterated his rejection of an army ultimatum giving him until 3pm (GMT) Wednesday to cede to protesters' demands.
Morsi told Egyptians that he had been given a legitimate mandate by the people that he was willing to defend with his life and urged them to reject any challenge to the legal order.
The only alternative to respecting the constitutional legitimacy of the presidential office was more bloodshed in the streets, he warned.
The president also conceded that mistakes had been made during his first year in office but said many of the persistent challenges had been problems created by the old regime.
Just hours after the speech, at least 16 people were killed and at least 200 others were wounded after gunmen opened fire on a gathering of Morsi's Islamist supporters near Cairo University.
"Police attacked the protesters in their uniforms, using state-issued machine guns and ammunition," said Gehad el-Haddad, spokesman for the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.
Following Morsi’s midnight address, the Facebook page of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, carried a response saying that it, too, would fight to the death to protect Egypt from “terrorists, radicals or fools”.
The army ultimatum, issued on Monday, gave Morsi 48 hours to respond to the demands of thousands of protesters or face a military intervention.
The military statement called on Egypt’s politicians to “meet the demands of the people” or the army would be forced to “announce a road map for the future and the steps for overseeing its implementation”.
Military sources told Reuters that the army plans to suspend the constitution and set up an interim council to rule pending new elections once the deadline expires. Other military sources denied this, saying the next step would be to gather Egypt's political, social and economic leaders for talks on a road map for the future.
Egypt's central bank told banks to close their branches early as the deadline loomed.
The Wednesday editions of most Egyptian news dailies were already predicting Morsi's departure, with the leading state-owned “al-Ahram” announcing, "Today: Ouster or Resignation” on its front page and the independent daily “al-Watan” simply stating: “The End”.
The army's ultimatum came a day after hundreds of thousands of Egyptians across the country took to the streets urging Morsi’s resignation as he marked one year in office on Sunday.
In Cairo and Nile Delta cities as well as those on the Mediterranean coast, the protests exceeded even the largest demonstrations of the 18-day uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak on February 11, 2011.
"It is the biggest protest in Egypt's history," a military source told AFP on condition of anonymity, adding that "millions" of people were involved in demonstrations across the country.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)
Date created : 2013-07-03