Egyptian general issues ultimatum to politicians
Obama urges Muslim Brotherhood to work with opposition after Islamists’ HQ attacked
If protesters maintain their camps, however, and return in the evenings, the spotlight will be on the army. It displayed its neutrality yesterday, making goodwill gestures to the protesters after urging feuding politicians last week to cooperate to solve the nation’s problems.
Some uniformed policemen marched among protesters in Cairo and Alexandria, chanting “the police and the people are one”, and several senior officers addressed the Tahrir Square crowd.
That cast doubt on whether Mr Morsi could rely on the security forces to clear the streets if he gave the order.
Diplomats said the army, which ruled uneasily during the transition from Mubarak’s fall to Mr Morsi’s election, had signalled it was deeply reluctant to step in again, unless violence got out of hand and national security was at stake.
While the main demonstrations were peaceful and festive in atmosphere, seven people were shot dead in clashes in the central cities of Assiut, Beni Suef and Fayoum and outside the Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters. The Health Ministry said 613 people were wounded in street fighting around the country.
Women’s activists said at least 43 women, including a foreign journalist, suffered organised sexual assaults by gangs of men during the Tahrir Square rally.
The opposition National Salvation Front coalition of liberal, secular and left-wing parties declared victory, saying the masses had “confirmed the downfall of the regime of Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood”.
Opposition leaders, who have seen previous protest waves fizzle after a few days in December and January, were to meet this afternoon to plot their next move.
Influential Qatar-based Muslim cleric Sheikh Youssef Qaradawi, visiting Cairo, appealed to fellow Egyptians to show more patience with Mr Morsi, while saying the president had made errors.
“How long has Mohamed Morsi ruled? One year,” Mr Qaradawi said in a television address. “Is one year enough to solve the problems of 60 years? That’s impossible ... We must give the man a chance and help him. Everyone must cooperate.”
The United States and the European Union have urged Morsi to share power with the opposition, saying only a national consensus can help Egypt overcome a severe economic crisis and build democratic institutions.
Mr Morsi and his Brotherhood supporters have so far rebuffed such pressure, arguing that he has democratic legitimacy and the opposition is merely seeking to achieve on the streets what it failed to secure at the ballot box.