CAIRO — Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Thursday blamed two weeks of political turmoil that have engulfed his nation on "paid elements," and he refused to make any concessions to his opponents in a late-night televised speech that for some was reminiscent of one of toppled leader Hosni Mubarak's last public presentations.
Rather than mollify his opponents, the speech agitated them and sparked scenes that were eerily similar to events in the days leading to Mubarak's fall.
As Morsi spoke, protesters who were gathered outside the presidential palace became increasingly angry, their chants of "Leave! Leave! Leave! Leave!" growing louder, much as happened when Mubarak first addressed the nation on Feb. 1, 2011, after a week of protests. In that speech, Mubarak said that hired "political forces" were inciting the crowds.
After Morsi spoke, protesters set several Muslim Brotherhood headquarters on fire, including the one in Cairo. Two years earlier, protesters set Mubarak's party headquarters ablaze.
For Morsi opponents, the speech was a sign that Morsi was unwilling to entertain their complaints that he had become a dictator just five months after the nation's first democratic election had elevated him to the presidency. They vowed to continue their protests.
"This was the speech of a dictator," said Mohamed Radwan, 33, an engineer who was among protesters outside the palace. "He only spoke to his" supporters.
Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, responding to the speech, said Morsi's government had lost its legitimacy after violence Wednesday outside the presidential palace left six people dead and hundreds injured. "It is now difficult to negotiate after innocent blood was shed," ElBaradei said in a statement released to a private television station.
Government resignations continued. A Christian adviser and the director of state broadcasting stepped down in opposition, joining three Morsi advisers who resigned Wednesday.
President Barack Obama, in a phone call to Morsi, expressed "deep concern about the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt," the White House said. In a statement, the White House added that Obama "emphasized that all political leaders … should make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable" and that negotiations should take place "without preconditions."
"It is essential for Egyptian leaders across the political spectrum to put aside their differences and come together to agree on a path that will move Egypt forward," the statement said.
Morsi's speech seemed contradictory. He appeared to reach out to opponents, inviting them to meet with him on Saturday. But he promised no compromise.
"I cannot compromise because my enemies have not yet been vanquished," he said.