CAIRO: Egypt’s presidency on Tuesday spurned an Army ultimatum threatening to intervene if Islamist President Mohamed Morsi did not meet the demands of the people, raising the stakes in the country’s political crisis.
Piling the pressure on Morsi, his Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr quit in the latest and most high profile cabinet resignation following the ministers of tourism, environment, investment and legal affairs.
The Army statement, read out on television Monday, had given Morsi 48 hours to comply with its call, after millions of people took to the streets nationwide to demand the Islamist leader step down.
“If the demands of the people are not met in this period . . . (the armed forces) will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation,” it said.
In a statement issued overnight, the presidency insisted it would continue on its own path towards national reconciliation.
The Army declaration had not been cleared by the presidency and could cause confusion, it said.
The presidency also denounced any declaration that would “deepen division” and “threaten the social peace”.
The pPesident was consulting “with all national forces to secure the path of democratic change and the protection of the popular will”, it added.
Morsi’s supporters, who have also taken to the streets to defend his legitimacy, say any attempt to remove the democratically elected president from power is no less than a coup.
The Army denied any attempt at a “coup”, saying that army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi’s statement was merely aimed at “pushing all political sides to quickly find a solution to the current crisis.”
Morsi is Egypt’s first freely elected President.
A longtime leader of the powerful Muslim Brotherhood, he was catapulted to power by the 2011 uprising that ended three decades of dictator Hosni Mubarak’s rule.
Monday’s army statement came just a day after millions of protesters took to the streets across Egypt, calling for Morsi to step down.
It received a rapturous welcome from Morsi’s opponents who spilled into the streets in Cairo, Alexandria and several other provinces, waving flags, chanting for the army and against Morsi.
Tamarod, the grassroots campaign behind Sunday’s massive protests against Morsi, also hailed the statement by the armed forces which it said had “sided with the people”.
It “will mean early presidential elections”, Tamarod’s spokesman Mahmud Badr told reporters.
In Tahrir, protesters voiced their support for the army chief, chanting: “Come down Sisi, Morsi is not my President.”
The Army, which led a tumultuous transition after the 2011 revolt that ousted Mubarak, had given all parties one week to reconcile their differences.
“This week, there has been no sign of gestures or acts,” the Army statement said.
“Wasting more time will lead only to more division . . . which we have warned and continue to warn against.”