Egypt army gives Mursi 48 hours to share power
Updated: 2013-07-02 06:29
Egyptian military helicopters trailing national flags circled over Tahrir Square during a protest demanding that Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi resign in Cairo July 1, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]
A dramatic military statement broadcast on state television declared the nation was in danger after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on Sunday to demand that Mursi quit and the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood were ransacked.
The generals' intervention was greeted with delight among protesters in the streets - and muted dismay by Islamists.
Since the fall of Hosni Mubarak as the Arab Spring revolutions took hold more than two years ago, the Arab world's most populous nation has remained in turmoil, arousing concern amongst allies in the West and in neighbouring Israel, with which Egypt has had a peace treaty since 1979.
Mursi's allies were angry: "The age of military coups is over," said the Brotherhood's Yasser Hamza. Mohamed El-Beltagy said Islamists would take to the streets to show their strength. Mursi himself did not respond all day.
Crowds in Cairo's Tahrir Square cheered when a flight of military helicopters swooped overhead trailing national flags. Silhouetted against the sunset, it was a powerful illustration of the military's desire to be seen in tune with the people.
"If the demands of the people are not realised within the defined period, it will be incumbent upon (the armed forces) ... to announce a road map for the future," chief-of-staff General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said in the statement. It was followed by martial music.
The people had expressed their will with unprecedented clarity in the mass demonstrations, he said, and wasting more time would only increase the danger of division and strife.
The army said it would oversee the implementation of the roadmap it sought "with the participation of all factions and national parties, including young people", but it would not get directly involved in politics or government.
Mursi's office later said the president met Sisi and Prime Minister Hisham Kandil, releasing a picture of them seated together smiling, but did not respond to the military statement.
Anti-Mursi demonstrators outside the presidential palace cheered the army statement, and the main opposition National Salvation Front, which has demanded a national unity government for months, applauded the military's move. Spokesman Khaled Dawoud made clear there would be no talks with Mursi - he must quit and, once the 48 hours were up, they would deal with Sisi.
A boy balances a poster of Egypt's President Mohamed Mursi on his bicycle during a pro-Islamist demonstration in Istanbul July 1, 2013.[Photo/Agencies]