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Egypt awaits army statement after deadline passes – BBC News


Protesters in Tahrir Square

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The BBC’s Ben Brown reports from Tahrir Square, which he says is “incredibly noisy and absolutely packed”

Egyptians are awaiting a televised statement on the political crisis, after a deadline set by the army for a resolution to the turmoil passed.

President Mohammed Morsi has repeated his offer of a consensus government, but still refuses to step down.

A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, to which Mr Morsi belongs, tweeted that a “full military coup” was under way.

Armoured vehicles have been seen moving through the streets.

There are also reports that Egyptian officials have placed an international travel ban on Mr Morsi and other senior members of the Muslim Brotherhood.

When the deadline set by the army passed, cheers echoed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, where tens of thousands of protesters had gathered.

The army had earlier held meetings with political and religious leaders to discuss the crisis.

But the ruling Freedom and Justice party – the political arm of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood – stayed away from these talks.

Mr Morsi’s opponents say he and the Muslim Brotherhood are pushing an Islamist agenda onto Egypt, and that he should stand down.

In a defiant televised speech on Tuesday evening, Mr Morsi said he would give his life to defend constitutional legitimacy, and blamed the unrest on corruption and remnants of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak.

‘Terrorists and fools’

Army chief Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was reported to have met his top commanders on Wednesday – and a source close to the military told AFP news agency they had been discussing details of a post-Morsi roadmap.

The army’s plan reportedly includes an outline for new presidential elections, the suspension of the new constitution and the dissolution of parliament.

Members of the Tamarod (Rebel) movement, which has mobilised millions of demonstrators onto the streets to demand Mr Morsi’s resignation, were also part of the meeting.

So too were leading religious figures and opposition leader Mohammed ElBaradei. An opposition source told Reuters Mr ElBaradei would “urge the armed forces to intervene to stop the bloodshed”.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad el-Haddad said the army had no right to offer such a plan.

“A roadmap is something that the constitution outlines and the president directs. It’s not the role of the military.”

He said the Brotherhood was open to any solution, but that it had to be through “representatives of the people”, and proposed speeding through parliamentary elections.

“If the protests on the street prove anything they prove the people of Egypt are ready to have their say. They can sweep the parliamentary election, impeach the president, change the constitution and set the roadmap that they want, but it has to be the right of the people.”

Military sources earlier told the BBC that under the draft plan, the president could be replaced by a council of cross-party civilians and technocrats ahead of new elections.

Helicopters and flags in Cairo

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Egypt in 90 seconds: How did we get here?

The president was put under further pressure by the resignation of six ministers from his government on Monday, including Foreign Minister Kamel Amr.

Elected president

Mr Morsi became Egypt’s first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair following the 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak.

Tamarod (Rebel)

A woman holds up a petition demanding President Mohammed Morsi's resignation (17 May 2013)

The Tamarod movement says more than 22 million people have signed a petition complaining that:

  • Security has not been restored since the 2011 revolution that toppled Hosni Mubarak
  • The poor “have no place” in society
  • The government has had to “beg” the International Monetary Fund (IMF) for a $4.8bn (£3.17bn) loan to help shore up the public finances
  • There has been “no justice” for people killed by security forces during the uprising and at anti-government protests since then
  • “No dignity is left” for Egyptians or their country
  • The economy has “collapsed”, with growth poor and inflation high
  • Egypt is “following in the footsteps” of the US

But dissent has been growing, with protesters angry at the lack of change in post-revolution Egypt and accusing the Brotherhood of trying to protect its own interests.

“This is a president threatening his own people. We don’t consider him the president of Egypt,” said Mohammed Abdelaziz, a leader of Tamarod.

However, Mr Morsi and the Brotherhood still have significant public support, and both sides have drawn huge numbers to rallies in recent days.

Tens of thousands gathered in Tahrir Square in central Cairo on Wednesday – for a fourth straight day – to demand Mr Morsi step down.

There were outbreaks of violence in several parts of the capital: in the largest bout of unrest, at least 16 people were killed and about 200 wounded at Cairo University in Giza.

Eyewitness Mostafa Abdelnasser told AFP that Morsi supporters had come under attack from unidentified men carrying firearms.

At least 39 people have now died since the protests began on Sunday.

In the wake of the latest unrest, the UK Foreign Office has changed its travel advice for Egypt, recommending against all but essential travel to the country except for resorts on the Red Sea in South Sinai and in the Red Sea governorate.

The instability has also hit global oil prices, sending US light crude above $100 a barrel for the first time since September last year, amid concerns supply routes through the Suez Canal could be affected.


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