CAIRO - Supporters of deposed President Mohamed Morsi urged Egyptians to take to the streets on Monday to thwart any police crackdown on two Cairo protest camps that Islamists have manned for weeks.
Officials had said police would move at dawn to disperse the camps in what could prove a bloody confrontation with those seeking Morsi's restitution, but they did not do so, and the demonstrators said they had no intention of giving up.
A pro-Morsi grouping, which includes the Muslim Brotherhood, called for nationwide rallies against the military, which toppled Egypt's first freely elected leader on July 3.
"The alliance calls on the people of Egypt in all provinces to go out on marches on Monday and gather everywhere," it said in a statement.
Security sources and a government official had said police would begin operations against the two sit-ins early on Monday to end a six-week-old street standoff between crowds demanding Morsi's reinstatement and the army-installed government.
Western and Arab envoys and some senior Egyptian government officials have pressed the army to avoid using force as it tries to end the crisis in the troubled Arab nation of 84 million.
Morsi's defiant supporters have fortified the protest camps with sandbags and piles of rocks in anticipation of a crackdown.
At the biggest camp in northeast Cairo, the mood was festive, despite talk of police action. One man brought fresh, hot bread for the protesters. Some bought food and drinks.
At the entrances to the sprawling site, a group of men with sticks shouted "God is greatest" to keep morale high.
"RELIGION, NOT POLITICS"
"I have been here for 28 days and will stay until I die as the issue is now about religion not politics. We want Islam, they want liberalism," said protester Ahmed Ramadan, who quit his job in a Red sea tourist resort to join the camp.
One security source said action against the protesters had been delayed because larger crowds had arrived at the protest camps after news broke that a crackdown was imminent.
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who ousted Morsi, has come under pressure from hardline military officers to break up the Brotherhood sit-ins in the capital, security sources say.
Almost 300 people have been killed in political violence since Morsi's overthrow, including dozens of his supporters shot dead by security forces in two incidents.
Egypt has been convulsed by political and economic turmoil since the 2011 uprising that ended 30 years of autocratic rule by US-backed President Hosni Mubarak, and the most populous Arab nation is now more polarized than any time for many years.
There is deepening alarm in the West over the course taken by Egypt, which sits astride the Suez Canal and receives $1.5 billion a year in mainly military aid from the United States.
Morsi became president in June 2012. But concerns he was seeking an Islamist autocracy and his failure to ease economic hardships led to mass rallies prompting the army to oust him.
Since then Brotherhood leaders have been jailed. Morsi is detained in an unknown location.