Egyptian military gives president Mohamed Morsi ultimatum

Tens of thousands of Egyptians return to their country’s streets and squares

An Egyptian woman chants slogans, as protesters ransack the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in the Muqattam district in Cairo.

Tens of thousands of Egyptians returned to their country’s streets and squares yesterday as the rebel Tamarod movement praised the army which has ratcheted up pressure on president Mohamed Morsi and the ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

Giving Egypt’s rival parties 48 hours to resolve the country’s political crisis, the army said it would offer a “road map” for peace if president 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.

Egyptians waited in vain in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square while fireworks exploded in the sky for the president and the Brotherhood to respond to the army’s ultimatum. Demonstrators chanted, “Game over, Morsi, game over.”

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He and prime minister Hisham Qandil held a meeting with army chief Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi as rumours circulated that the general would replace Mr Qandil for six months until parliamentary elections and a new presidential poll can be held.

Tamarod spokesman Mahmoud Badr argued that the army supports the main demand of millions of protesters involved in demonstrations since last Friday: Mr Morsi’s resignation. He said the “army’s historic role is to take the side of the people.”

However, the anti-Morsi camp is divided over the possibility of a military coup against the country’s first elected president, seeing this as a negation of the revolution launched by the ouster of 30-year president Hosni Mubarak in 2011.


Civil disobedience
Ignoring the army's call for an accommodation between the sides, organiser Moheb Doss confirmed that Tamarod would go ahead with today's civil disobedience campaign if Mr Morsi does not agree to step down.

Mainstream opposition National Salvation Front leader Amr Moussa called the crisis “a historical opportunity that should not be lost” and warned that “wasting more time will make things worse.”

The headquarters of the moderate fundamentalist Wasat Party allied to Mr Morsi was torched, expanding the anti-fundamentalist campaign that has so far targeted the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Mr Morsi hails.

On Monday, the Cairo base of the Brotherhood was burned, ransacked and looted.

US president Barack Obama has asked the Egyptian government to abide by the “rule of law and democratic procedures” or risk losing US financial aid.

The Pentagon, which has close ties to the military, refused to comment on the Egyptian army’s ultimatum or speculate on what could happen in Egypt during the coming hours.

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen

Michael Jansen contributes news from and analysis of the Middle East to The Irish Times