Egyptian army issues 48-hour ultimatum for resolution

2:03 PM, Jul 1, 2013   |    comments
Fireworks are shot at the Muslim Brotherhood headquarters in Cairo's Muqattam district on June 30, 2013. (Photo: Brian Rohan, AP)
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CAIRO (USA TODAY) -- The Egyptian army said Monday afternoon that the current situation must be resolved within 48 hours or it will implement a "road map" for the future of the nation.

The statement Monday described as "glorious" the mass protests on Sunday that brought out millions of Egyptians calling for President Mohammed Morsi's ouster.

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.

Political deadlock paralyzed Egypt on Monday after protesters attacked Cairo's Muslim Brotherhood headquarters and hundreds of thousands of people took to the streets Sunday, demanding the resignation of President Mohammed Morsi, and calling for early presidential elections.

"We're going to stay in the streets until our demands for early elections are met," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the National Salvation Front, one of a number of anti-Morsi groups.

"The message is loud and clear through the number (of protesters) that came out yesterday," he said. "I hope the Brotherhood will accept this and agree to early presidential elections."

On Sunday, millions of people across Egypt demanded that the president resign. Opposition groups have given Morsi until Tuesday to step down, but he has made it clear that he is not willing to give up his post one year after he won the nation's first democratic election.

"Stepping down for Morsi and his supporters is unimaginable,"said Khalil Al-Anani, an expert on Islamist movements and Egyptian politics. Al-Anani added that he doesn't think either political camp will make concessions.

Protesters rallied in Tahrir Square - the heart of the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011 - and outside the presidential palace to demand that Morsi step down well into Sunday evening. They chanted: "Go out!" and "The people want the fall of the regime!"

And underscoring the depth of agitation over the nation's leader, who comes from the Muslim Brotherhood, angry demonstrators attacked the Brotherhood headquarters in the capital late Sunday night, leading to several deaths when people inside opened fire. At least another five were killed in clashes that erupted in cities across Upper Egypt.

Now protesters are gearing up for more demonstrations that are expected to crescendo Tuesday, as the deadline for Morsi to step down approaches.

"At the end of the day, yesterday created and is creating huge political divisions," said Mazen Hassan, a political analyst in Cairo.

"The best case scenario out of this crisis is that both camps, both pro and anti-Morsi camps, realize it's impossible for any of them to totally defeat the other," Hassan said, "and hence they need to sit and come up with a power-sharing formula by which they can govern the country in the months to come."

But Dawoud said the opposition is not willing to come up with a power-sharing arrangement with the Brotherhood and said the group has lost all its chances to do so. The opposition will settle for nothing less than Morsi stepping down and an early presidential election, Dawoud said.

The deadlock follows weeks of growing tension between opposing political camps in the lead up to June 30, the one year anniversary of Morsi's inauguration.

The Tamarod, or rebel, campaign - which planned the June 30 demonstrations - has been gathering signatures on petitions for months to show no-confidence votes against the president. Critics complain of a deteriorating economic and political situation, fuel shortages, power outages and lack of an effective security network.

They also say Morsi is only putting new faces on an old system of governing, replacing Mubarak's regime with his own rather than truly changing the system.

But Morsi still has a strong set of loyal backers, who staged their own rally Sunday in support of the president. Morsi's camp claims the president retains legitimacy since he was democratically elected.

However, amid the widening crisis, five ministers prepared Monday to offer their resignations due to the current state conditions, Egypt's state news agency said. They are the ministers of communication, legal affairs, tourism, utilities and environment, according to the official news agency.

Contributing: The Associated Press.

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