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Egypt military, protesters give President Morsi ultimatum to meet people’s demands


CAIRO:  Egypt’s military on Monday issued a 48-hour ultimatum to the Islamist president and his opponents to reach an agreement to “meet the people’s demands” or it will intervene to put forward a political road map for the country and ensure it is carried out.
The ultimatum, it said, was a “last chance.”
It described the mass protests on Sunday that brought out millions of Egyptians demanding President Mohammed Morsi’s ouster as “glorious.” It said protesters expressed their opinion “in peaceful and civilized manner,” and that “it is necessary that the people get a reply … to their calls.”
The military underlined it will “not be a party in politics or rule.” But it said it has a responsibility to act because Egypt’s national security is facing a “grave danger,” according to the statement, read out on state television.
“The Armed Forces repeat its call for the people’s demands to be met and give everyone 48 hours as a last chance to shoulder the burden of a historic moment for a nation that will not forgive or tolerate any party that is lax in shouldering its responsibility,” it said.
It did not directly define “the people’s demands,” but said if they are not realized, the military is obliged to “announce a road-map for the future and the steps for overseeing its implementation, with participation of all patriotic and sincere parties and movements.”
It is the second ultimatum to be given to Morsi and the opposition to reach an agreement. Last Sunday, Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave the two sides a week to reach an agreement. That ultimatum expired on Sunday, with Morsi repeating his longstanding offer for dialogue that the opposition rejected.
The organizers of Sunday’s protests also gave Morsi a Tuesday 5 p.m. deadline to step down or face an escalation of the campaign to force him out, including civil disobedience.
The founder of one Egyptian protest movement said Monday he welcomed the military ultimatum and urged people to rally again until Morsi quits, Reuters reported.
Mahmoud Badr, of the “Tamarod – Rebel!” coalition told a televised news conference: “The statement of the armed forces has a single idea – supporting the will of the Egyptian people at this moment, which means early presidential elections.”
In other developments Monday, protesters overran and ransacked the headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood. And according to a Reuters report, five non-Brotherhood government ministers resigned from the cabinet, apparently in sympathy with the protesters, underlining a sense of isolation for the party that won a series of elections last year.
The ultimatum issued Monday by Tamarod, the protest organizers, increases pressure on Morsi a day after the opposition’s massive show of force on the streets, with millions packing Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the streets outside the presidential palace and main squares in cities around the country on the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration.
The main rallies in Cairo were largely peaceful, but deadly violence broke out in several parts of the country, often when marchers came under gunfire, apparently from Islamists. At least 16 people were killed and more than 780 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state television.
During a stop on his trip to Africa, President Obama commented on the situation in Egypt while speaking at a news conference with Tanzanian President Jakaya Kikwete in Dar Es Salaam Monday. “We’re all concerned about what’s happening in Egypt. The U.S. government is monitoring it closely.”
President Obama says protests in Egypt so far haven’t included the level of violence many had feared but the potential for such violence remains. He says the U.S. is committed to democracy in Egypt, not any particular leader.
“Although Morsi was elected democratically there’s more to be done to create a condition where everyone feels their voices are heard, ” Obama said.
He says now Morsi’s government must respect its opposition and minority groups.
President Obama also called for all sides to refrain from violence.
Morsi has said he will not quit, saying that street action must not be allowed to remove an elected president or else the same could happen to future presidents. At the same time, he has offered no concessions — though his opponents appear in no mood to accept anything short of his removal anyway. His Islamist supporters, some of them hard-liners who belong to formerly armed militant groups, have vowed to defend him.
Reuters reported that a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) said “everyone” rejected the military declaration that set a 48-hour deadline for politicians to settle the country’s standoff.
“Everyone rejects the statement of the armed forces,” Yasser Hamza, a member of the FJP’s legal committee, told Al Jazeera.“Solutions will be in the framework of the constitution,” he said. “The age of military coups is over.”
The concern is that violence could escalate with anger mounting on both sides. Morsi’s Islamist supporters showed Sunday they were willing to unleash deadly force when protesters approached their positions, with clashes erupting in multiple cities.
In Cairo, protesters Sunday night attacked the Brotherhood’s main headquarters, pelting it with stones and firebombs. Brotherhood backers barricaded inside opened fire on them in clashes that went on for hours and left eight dead. In the early hours Monday, protesters breached the walls of the six-story luxury villa and stormed inside.
Footage on local TV networks showed smashed windows, blackened walls and smoke billowing out of the fortified villa in the Muqatam district in eastern Cairo. A fire was still raging on one floor hours after the building was stormed. One protester tore down the Muslim Brotherhood sign from the building’s front wall, while another hoisted Egypt’s red, black and white flag out an upper-story window and waved it in the air in triumph.
Morsi’s critics view the Brotherhood headquarters as the seat of real power in Egypt, consistently claiming that the Islamist group’s spiritual leader, Mohammed Badie and his powerful deputy, Khairat el-Shater, actually call the shots behind Morsi. Morsi and Brotherhood officials have denied this and say they have tried to give opponents a greater voice, only to be spurned.
Some protesters spent the night in dozens of tents pitched in the capital’s central Tahrir Square and in front of the president’s Ittihadiya Palace. They have vowed to stay there until Morsi resigns. The president’s supporters, meanwhile, continued their sit-in in front of a major mosque in another part of Cairo.
The anti-Morsi demonstrators are calling for widespread labor strikes in an attempt to ratchet up the pressure on the president, but it was not immediately clear whether unions would respond to the call.
Sunday’s protests were the largest seen in Egypt in the 2 1/2 years of turmoil since the ouster of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.
For weeks, Morsi’s supporters have depicted the planned protest as a plot by Mubarak loyalists to return to power. But their claims were undermined by the extent of Sunday’s rallies. In Cairo and a string of cities in the Nile Delta and on the Mediterranean coast, the protests topped even the biggest protests of the 2011’s 18-day uprising, including the day Mubarak quit, Feb. 11, when giant crowds marched on Ittihadiya.
“Mubarak took only 18 days although he had behind him the security, intelligence and a large sector of Egyptians,” said Amr Tawfeeq, an oil company employee marching toward Ittihadiya with a Christian friend. Morsi “won’t take long. We want him out and we are ready to pay the price.”
(Source: foxnews, The Associated Press contributed to this report.)

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