Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

Egypt's military gives ultimatum to president

CAIRO — Egypt's military gave a "last-chance" ultimatum Monday to President Mohammed Morsi: In 48 hours meet the demands of millions of protesters in the streets calling for his ouster, or the generals will intervene and impose their own plan for the country.

The military's statement, read on state TV, put enormous pressure on Morsi to step down. Giant crowds demanding his departure in cities around the country for a second straight day erupted into delirious parties of celebration, with men and women dancing, and some crying as patriotic songs blasted from speakers on cars.

But any move against Morsi after the deadline risks a backlash from his Islamist backers, including his powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization. Multiple officials of the Brotherhood insisted that the military and street protests cannot overturn the legitimacy of his election last year. "Any coup of any kind against legitimacy will only pass over our dead bodies," one leading Brotherhood figure, Mohammed el-Beltagi, said at a rally in Cairo.

The army's stance also raises an unsettling prospect for many of Morsi's opponents: the potential return of the military that ruled Egypt directly for nearly 17 months after the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak on Feb. 11, 2011. Many of those now in the anti-Morsi campaign led protests against military rule, angered by its management of the transition and heavy hand, including killings of protesters.

"Morsi will leave, but I'm concerned with the plan afterward," said Roshdy Khairy, a 24-year-old doctor among the throngs in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Monday night. "The military should be a tool to pressure, but we had a bitter experience with military ruling the country and we don't want to repeat it."

Hours after its announcement, the military issued a second statement on its Facebook page denying it intended a coup. In its initial statement, the military said it would "announce a road map for the future and measures to implement it" if Morsi and his opponents cannot reach a consensus within 48 hours.

The military underlined it will "not be a party in politics or rule." But it said it has a responsibility to find a solution because Egypt's national security is facing a "grave danger."

It did not detail the road map, but it heavily praised the massive protests that began on Sunday demanding that Morsi step down and that early elections be called. The statement called the protests "glorious," saying the participants expressed their opinion "in peaceful and civilized manner."

Morsi met Monday with military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi and Prime Minister Hesham Kandil, according to the president's Facebook page, without giving details. Associated Press calls to spokespeople for the presidency were not answered.

In a sign of Morsi's growing isolation, five Cabinet ministers said on Monday they had resigned, the state news agency said. The five are the ministers of communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities, MENA reported.

The governor of the strategic province of Ismailia on the Suez Canal, Hassan el-Rifaai, also quit.

The swiftness of the military's statement suggested it was prompted by the stunning turnout by the opposition on Sunday — and the eruptions of violence that point to how the confrontation could spiral into chaos.

At least 16 people were killed Sunday and more than 780 injured, Health Ministry spokesman Yehya Moussa told state TV.

Sunday's protests were the largest seen in Egypt in the 2½ years of turmoil since protesters first rose up against Mubarak in January 2011. Millions packed Tahrir Square, the streets outside the Ittihadiya presidential palace and main squares in cities around the country on the first anniversary of Morsi's inauguration.

On Monday, President Barack Obama called for all sides to refrain from violence and said Morsi and his opponents should work to resolve the unrest.

The crowds turned out again Monday across the country — in slightly smaller numbers, but in a more uproariously joyous mood after the military's announcement. The group organizing the protests, Tamarod, Arabic for "Rebel," issued an ultimatum of its own, giving Morsi until this afternoon to step down or it would escalate the rallies further.

Egypt's turmoil

The president: Mohammed Morsi, an Islamist, is Egypt's first democratically elected president, but opposition protesters say he has lost his legitimacy during a year of political turmoil as the country's economy has faltered and security in the streets has crumbled. He was elected in 2012, after the ouster of Hosni Mubarak in a popular rebellion in 2011.

The protesters: The demonstrators are a loose alliance of liberal and secular activists, old regime loyalists and a growing number of the nation's disenchanted poor. According to the Wall Street Journal, they fear that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood are trying to set up an Islamic state. Egyptian culture is known for its relatively moderate and Mediterranean outlook. The protesters want Morsi to quit and call early elections.

The Islamists: The president's supporters, most of them from the Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups, accuse the opposition of challenging the democratic process and engaging in a conspiracy to oust an elected ruler. They dominate the upper house of Parliament and are behind the Islamist-drafted constitution.

Times wires

Egypt's military gives ultimatum to president 07/01/13 [Last modified: Monday, July 1, 2013 11:50pm]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Who will headline the 2021 Super Bowl halftime show in Tampa?


    The NFL announced Tuesday that Tampa will host Super Bowl LV in 2021, a result of stadium construction delays in Los Angeles.

    Taylor Swift performed at Raymond James Stadium in 2015. Could she return for Super Bowl LV in 2021?
  2. New DEP secretary says there's no conflict in political side businesses


    TALLAHASSEE — When Noah Valenstein, the newly appointed head of the Department of Environmental Protection, was applying in April to be the state's top environmental regulator, he left one thing off the application: Companies he started and his wife runs have been paid nearly $1 million by politicians and lobbying …

     Noah Valenstein got the job as secretary of the Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday May 23rd, on a unanimous vote by Gov. Rick Scott and the Cabinet. He will take the helm on June 5, with a salary of $150,000 per year. [Florida Governor's Office]
  3. Trump says 'we can use peace' during meeting with Pope Francis


    VATICAN CITY — President Donald Trump and Pope Francis, two leaders with contrasting styles and differing worldviews, met at the Vatican City on Wednesday, setting aside their previous clashes to broadcast a tone of peace for an audience around the globe.

    Pope Francis meets with President Donald Trump on the occasion of their private audience, at the Vatican, Wednesday, May 24, 2017. [Associated Press]
  4. Pinellas construction licensing board looking for ways to fill financial hole

    Local Government

    LARGO — The Pinellas County Construction Licensing Board's interim leader told the governing board Tuesday that the troubled agency is looking for ways to climb out of its

  5. Adam Putnam calls for special session on medical marijuana


    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture and Republican candidate for governor Adam Putnam wants state lawmakers to come back to Tallahassee in a special session to finish the work on medical marijuana that they started but didn't finish earlier this month.

    Florida Commissioner of Agriculture Adam Putnam is a candidate for governor in 2018.