Egypt's army issues 48-hour ultimatum to leadership
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The head of Egypt’s armed forces gave politicians 48 hours to answer demands made by the Egyptian people on Monday, threatening to offer the army’s own “road map for the future” if the protests, which have seen at least six people killed, go ignored.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians gathered at Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Monday night welcomed a 48-hour military ultimatum to President Mohammed Morsi and other politicians to resolve the current political crisis or face an intervention.
“Tahrir Square is packed to the gills tonight,” said FRANCE 24’s Kathryn Stapley, reporting from Cairo. “People have come out in the tens of thousands, the streets and side-streets are packed down to the bridges. They’ve been galvanised by the sheer number of people who turned out yesterday as well as the army statement today.”
The headquarters of Egypt's ruling Muslim Brotherhood was ransacked and set aflame by activists Monday following a siege on the building a day earlier. Those inside the building had been evacuated by mid-morning, the group said.
Demonstrators attacked the building after dark on Sunday with fire bombs and rocks, prompting guards to open fire, killing several protesters.
A spokesman for the Brotherhood blamed the violence Sunday on "thugs" and said it would be demanding answers from police who failed to protect the building. He said two of those inside were injured in the unrest.
(Source: Reuters, FRANCE 24)
A day after millions of Egyptians across the country took to the streets urging Morsi’s resignation, the country’s powerful military issued a statement calling on Egypt’s politicians to “meet the demands of the people” within 48 hours or the army would be forced to “announce a roadmap for the future and the steps for overseeing its implementation”.
In the statement, which was broadcast on state television, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the latest protests reflected an “unprecedented” expression of popular anger against Morsi.
The declaration was met with delight on the streets of Cairo, where protesters cheered, honked their car horns and waved flags as army helicopters hovered over Tahrir Square, dropping Egyptian flags on the protesters. "Come down Sisi, Morsi is not my president," protesters chanted, urging the country's army chief to intervene.
“There was an explosion of joy here in Tahrir Square,” said Stapley. “Many of the protesters here have taken that statement to mean that the army has taken the protesters’ side.”
Hours after the first announcement, Egypt’s armed forces issued a second declaration denying that the earlier statement by Sisi amounted to a military coup and said his aim was only to push politicians to reach consensus.
Morsi meets army chief
Shortly after the announcement, Morsi and Prime Minister Hisham Kandil met with Sisi, according to a statement posted on the Egyptian president’s official Facebook page, which showed a photograph of the three men. The statement did not provide details of when and where the photograph was taken.
In an interview with AFP earlier Monday, a senior Muslim Brotherhood official Mahmud Ghozlan said the movement’s political bureau would be meeting to study the military’s ultimatum and to “decide on its position”.
More than two years after the fall of former Egyptian strongman Hosni Mubarak, Egypt is once again at the centre of international attention as the world’s most populous Arab nation confronts divisions between Islamist-supporters and secular Egyptians, watched over by a powerful military that briefly – and disastrously – held power shortly after Mubarak’s ouster.
During a visit to Tanzania, US President Barack Obama renewed a call for Morsi and his opponents to cooperate, just as Sisi's statement was being broadcast on Egyptian state TV.
The Pentagon, which funds the Egyptian army heavily, said it could not speculate on what was about to happen in Egypt.
‘This is very embarrassing for Mohammed Morsi’
The army statement came as five Cabinet ministers met on Monday to consider resigning their posts and joining the protest movement, the state news agency reported. The meeting gathered the communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities ministers, according to MENA.
“This is very embarrassing for Mohammed Morsi,” said Stapley, noting that while the five ministers were not members of the Muslim Brotherhood, they were technocrats handpicked by the Egyptian president. “It just shows that the divisions here are reaching from the grassroots – from a signature campaign that ordinary citizens signed stating that they have no confidence in the president – right up to the heart of his government.”
Earlier Monday, the campaign that spearheaded Sunday’s mass protests announced that it would give Morsi until 5pm local time (3pm GMT) on Wednesday, July 3, to leave power, allowing state institutions to prepare for early presidential elections.
The campaign, called Tamarod – or rebellion in Arabic - claims to have collected 22 million signatures in an online campaign calling on the president to resign. Morsi backers have questioned the authenticity of the signatures.
Tamarod’s call for Morsi’s resignation came as protesters stormed the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo on Monday morning, burning the premises and looting office supplies in the course of a long siege that left at least seven people dead.
(FRANCE 24 with wires)