Morsi calls on Egyptian army to withdraw ultimatum
US leans on Morsi to reach agreement through talks
Supporters of Egypt’s president Mohamed Morsi shout slogans during a protest in support of Morsi near Cairo University. Photograph: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah.
Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has called on the armed forces to withdraw an ultimatum for him to share power with his political opponents and said he would not be dictated to.
“President Mohamed Morsi asserts his grasp on constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to deviate from it, and calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and refuses to be dicatated to internally or externally,” a tweet on the official Twitter feed of the Egyptian presidency said.
A military source said the armed forces had seen Mr Morsi’s statement and would issue a response to it.
It came after the US has put pressure on the embattled Egyptian president to listen to concerns of huge anti-government protests, as Egypt’s army planned to push the Islamist leader aside if he fails to strike a power-sharing deal with his opponents within 24 hours.
In a phone call at the end of an African tour, President Barack Obama told Mr Morsi that the political crisis can only be resolved by talks with his opponents.
“President Obama encouraged President Morsi to take steps to show that he is responsive to their concerns, and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process,” the White House said in a statement. Mr Obama urged Mr Morsi to create an inclusive political process.
Egypt’s armed forces would suspend the constitution and dissolve the Islamist-dominated parliament under a draft political roadmap to be pursued if the Islamist president and his opponents fail to reach a power-sharing agreement by tomorrow, military sources in the country said earlier.
The plan is intended to resolve a political crisis that has brought millions of protesters into the streets.
The roadmap could be changed based on political developments and consultations. Chief-of-staff Gen Abdel Fattah El-Sisi called in a statement yesterday for Mr Morsi to agree within 48 hours on power-sharing with other political forces, saying the military would otherwise set out its own roadmap for the country’s future.
The president rebuffed the ultimatum and the main liberal and leftist opposition alliance has refused to talk to him, demanding along with youth activists that he resign.
The sources said the military intended to install an interim council, composed mainly of civilians from different political groups and experienced technocrats, to run the country until an amended constitution was drafted within months.
Meanwhile, the UN human rights office has called on Mr Morsi to listen to the demands of the Egyptian people and engage in a “serious national dialogue” to defuse the political crisis.
A spokesman for UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay said the role of the military in the emerging situation was crucial.
“We call on the president of Egypt to listen to the demands and wishes of the Egyptian people expressed during these huge protests over the past few days, and to address key issues raised by the opposition and by civil society in recent months,” the spokesman, Rupert Colville, told a news briefing in Geneva.
“We urge all political parties and social groups in Egypt to urgently engage in a serious national dialogue in order to find a solution to the political crisis and prevent an escalation of violence.”
Asked about the role of the military, Mr Colville said: “We’re talking hopefully about a newly developing democracy in Egypt, so obviously what the military does or doesn’t do is crucial. Nothing should be done that would undermine democratic processes in the country.”
Rebuffing the army’s ultimatum to force a resolution, Mr Morsi said he had not been consulted and would pursue his own plans for national reconciliation.
His justice minister denied an al-Arabiya television report that the government had resigned today.
“The government has not submitted its resignation and what has been raised on that matter is not true,” justice minister Ahmed Suleiman told reporters after a meeting of the rump cabinet under prime minister Hisham Kandil.
Six ministers who are not members of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood submitted their resignations yesterday, and the official MENA news agency said the ministers of defence and the interior did not attend the cabinet session.
Newspapers across the political spectrum saw the army’s 48-hour deadline as a turning point. “Last 48 hours of Muslim Brotherhood rule,” the opposition daily El Watan declared. “Egypt awaits the army,” said the state-owned El Akhbar.
The confrontation has pushed the most populous Arab nation closer to the brink amid a deepening economic crisis two years after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak, raising concern in Washington, Europe and neighbouring Israel.
Protesters remained encamped overnight in Cairo’s central Tahrir Square and protest leaders called for another mass rally this evening to try to force the president out.
Senior members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood used the word “coup” to describe the military ultimatum, backed by a threat that the generals will otherwise impose their own roadmap for the nation.
In a statement issued nine hours after Gen al-Sisi delighted Mr Morsi’s opponents by effectively ordering the president to heed the demands of demonstrators, the president’s office used considerably less direct language to indicate he would go his own way.
“The president of the republic was not consulted about the statement issued by the armed forces,” it said. “The presidency sees that some of the statements in it carry meanings that could cause confusion in the complex national environment.
“The presidency confirms that it is going forward on its previously plotted path to promote comprehensive national reconciliation ... regardless of any statements that deepen divisions between citizens.”
The Brotherhood’s political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, said the Egyptian people alone had the right to draw a roadmap for the nation and had done so in the constitution approved in a referendum last December.
It called on the people “to rally to defend constitutional legitimacy and express their refusal of any coup against it.”
The White House said president Barack Obama, visiting Tanzania, had encouraged Mr Morsi to respond to the protests and “underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process”.
Highlighting the huge scale of anti- Morsi protests, an opposition TV station broadcast aerial footage of vast crowds thronging Cairo’s central Tahrir Square, spilling over a wide adjoining area and stretching across the Nile bridges.
The armed forces used helicopters to monitor the crowds on Sunday and yesterday.
Attacks on Brotherhood offices have added to feelings among Islamists that they are under siege. Some Brotherhood leaders, who swept a series of votes last year, said they would look to put their own supporters on the streets.