CAIRO - The general command of the Egyptian armed forces is currently holding a crisis meeting, a military source told Reuters on Wednesday.
The meeting was being held hours before the expiry of a deadline set by the army for rival politicians to find a solution to the country's political crisis.
Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram
newspaper said it expected President Mohamed Morsi would either step
down or be removed from office on Wednesday when a deadline set by the
army for resolving the country's political crisis expires.
flagship state daily said an army road map for the future would set up a
three-member presidential council to be chaired by the head of the
Supreme Constitutional Court.
learnt that with the end of the 48-hour period set by the armed forces
... it is expected in the hours that follow it, one of two things:
either Morsi announces his resignation himself, or the declaration of
his removal through the road map for the future set out by the armed
forces," it said.
said the road map would set up a neutral transitional government to be
headed by a military leader. The transitional period would last nine to
12 months in which a new constitution would be drafted to set out a path
to presidential elections.
Egypt's army commander and Morsi, who represents the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, each
pledged his life to defy the other as the hour approached on Wednesday
that will trigger a military takeover that was prompted by mass
The military chiefs issued a call to battle in a
statement headlined "The Final Hours". They said they were willing to
shed blood against "terrorists and fools" after Morsi refused to give up
his elected office. Morsi said, "The price ... is my life."
mass of revelers on Cairo's Tahrir Square feted the army for saving the
revolutionary democracy won there two years ago, supporters of the
president's Muslim Brotherhood denounced a "military coup". Some clashed
with security forces at Cairo University, where 16 people died and
about 200 were wounded.
Military sources told Reuters the army
had drafted a plan to sideline Morsi and suspend the constitution after a
5 p.m. (1500 GMT) deadline passes. Coordinated with political leaders,
an interim council would rule pending new elections. The sources would
not say what was planned for an uncooperative president.
the expiry of a 48-hour ultimatum set by the head of the armed forces
that he should agree to a power-sharing deal with his rivals, Morsi
broadcast a defiant, if somewhat rambling, address to the nation to
defend his "legitimacy" - a word he used repeatedly in the course of 45
Liberal opposition leaders, who have vowed not to
negotiate with Morsi since the ultimatum was issued, immediately
denounced his refusal to go as a declaration of "civil war". The youth
movement that organized the mass protests urged the Republican Guard to
arrest Morsi immediately and present him for trial.
after his midnight television appearance, the military high command
responded with a post on its Facebook page. The post said they, too,
were willing to lay down their lives to defend their position - one
which they described as defending the Egyptian people from "terrorists,
radicals and fools".
A military source said the message came from
General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the armed forces commander appointed by
Morsi last year, who issued the ultimatum to politicians on Monday.
was posted on the official Facebook page of the Supreme Council of the
Armed Forces, or SCAF. It entered history books as Egypt's ruling
institution after the army pushed aside Hosni Mubarak in the Arab Spring
uprising of early 2011.
"It is an honor for us to die rather
than that anyone should terrorize or threaten the Egyptian people," it
said. "We swear to God, we will sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and
its people to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool.
"Long live Egypt and its people."
unclear who fired at whom or who started the violence at Cairo
University. Muslim Brotherhood supporters angrily held up rifle and
shotgun cartridges after scenes of mayhem, shrouded in teargas. State
television quoted a health ministry official as saying 16 people died
and about 200 were hurt.
That made it by some way the bloodiest
incident in several weeks of street fighting. Eight people were killed
the previous day during a siege of the Brotherhood's national
headquarters and the movement has said it is under attack from hired
"thugs" left over from the days of Mubarak's secret police.
price of preserving legitimacy is my life," Morsi said in an
impassioned, repetitive address to the camera. "Legitimacy is the only
guarantee to preserve the country."
In a warning aimed as much at
his own militant supporters as at the army, he said: "We do not declare
jihad (holy war) against each other. We only wage jihad on our
Urging Egyptians not to heed the siren calls of what he
called remnants of the former authoritarian government, the "deep
state" and the corrupt, he said: "Don't be fooled. Don't fall into the
trap. Don't let them steal your revolution."
Condemning a coup
against their first freely elected leader, tens of thousands of Muslim
Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, clashing with opponents in
But they were dwarfed by anti-government protesters who turned out in the hundreds of thousands across the nation.
sources told Reuters that, assuming the politicians fail to end a year
of deadlock before the deadline, the generals have their own draft
program ready - although it could be fine-tuned in consultation with
willing political parties.
Under the road map, the military would
install an interim council, composed mainly of civilians from different
political groups and experienced technocrats, to run the country until
an amended constitution was drafted within months.
That would be
followed by a new presidential election, but parliamentary polls would
be delayed until strict conditions for selecting candidates were in
force, the sources said.
They would not say how the military
intended to deal with Morsi if he refused to go quietly. Some of his
Islamist supporters have vowed to defend what they see as the
legitimate, democratic order, even if it means dying as martyrs. Some
have a history of armed struggle against the state.