CAIRO - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi vowed to stay in power and defend constitutional legitimacy on Wednesday as generals worked on plans to push the Islamist aside within the day and suspend the constitution.
In a defiant midnight television address responding to military demands that he share power with his opponents or see the army impose its own solution, Morsi warned that any deviation from the democratic order approved in a series of votes last year would lead Egypt down a dangerous path.
He was speaking as vast crowds of protesters rallied in central Cairo and across the nation to demand the Muslim Brotherhood politician's resignation in a third night of mass demonstrations. His supporters also turned out and some were involved in clashes with security forces at Cairo University.
"The price of preserving legitimacy is my life," Morsi said in an impassioned, repetitive, 45-minute ramble. "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 enemies."
The death toll in violence involving Islamist supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi near Cairo University rose to 16 on Wednesday and 200 people were wounded, state television quoted a Health Ministry spokesman as saying.
Security sources said pro-Morsi demonstrators clashed with security forces. Witnesses said they heard shotgun and rifle fire.
Urging Egyptians not to heed the siren calls of what he called remnants of the former authoritarian regime, "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."
An opposition spokesman called Morsi's defiance "an open call for civil war". Peaceful protests would go on, he said.
Egypt's opposition alliance said Morsi's refusal on Tuesday to accept a military ultimatum to share power had put the country on course for confrontation and raised the risk of violence.
"This is leading to confrontation, not offering any compromise or listening to people on the streets, and we are very alarmed about escalation of violence," said Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for the National Salvation Front.
On Monday, army commander General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi gave Morsi 48 hours to reach an accommodation with his opponents. Otherwise, he said, the military would step in and implement its own road-map for the country's future.
A military spokesman said the armed forces would not comment on the president's statement until Wednesday afternoon. The deadline is set to expire at 5 p.m. (1500 GMT).
Condemning a coup against their first freely elected leader, tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters took to the streets, clashing with opponents in several towns. But they were dwarfed by anti-government protesters who turned out in their hundreds of thousands across the nation.
Security sources said dozens of people were wounded in the clashes at Cairo University involving Morsi supporters. Witnesses heard gunfire and teargas was used by the authorities.