CAIRO: Egypt’s President Mohamed Morsi vowed he would not quit despite mass protests demanding his resignation and an army ultimatum as fresh deadly violence rocked capital Cairo.
In a televised address on Tuesday evening, the embattled leader said he had been freely elected to lead the troubled nation little more than a year ago and intended to stick to his task.
The only alternative to respecting the constitutional legitimacy of the office was further bloodshed on the streets, he warned.
Just hours after his speech, the health ministry reported that unidentified gunman had killed 16 people and wounded about 200 more after opening fire on a rally of his supporters in Cairo.
Morsi’s speech came as the clock ticked down to a Wednesday deadline set by the army for the president to meet the “people’s demands” or have a solution imposed on him.
While he made no direct reference to the ultimatum in his speech, a message posted on his official Twitter account called on the army to back off.
“President Morsi insists on [his]constitutional legitimacy and rejects any attempt to overstep it,” the message said.
“[He] calls on the armed forces to withdraw their warning and rejects any dictates, domestic or foreign.”
After Morsi’s speech, the opposition Tamarod movement, which on Sunday mobilized millions of demonstrators for what the military described as the biggest protests in Egyptian history, accused Morsi of “threatening his own people.”
Morsi and army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi were locked in talks on Tuesday to “discuss the current crisis,” a military source said.
The army’s ultimatum on Monday drew a rapturous welcome from opponents of the president but his supporters accused the generals of preparing a return to the unpopular military rule of the months between the overthrow of former president Hosni Mubarak and Morsi’s swearing-in last year.
Government daily Al-Ahram, in its online edition, reported details of the demands set out by the army.
The army told Morsi to step down if he could not come up with a plan that would satisfy the masses calling for him to go, or face being removed, it reported.
The plan provided for an interim administration of up to a year to replace him, which would include the head of the supreme constitutional court and a senior army figure, the paper reported.
The constitution, controversially approved by Morsi’s Islamist allies in December, would be suspended for up to a year while a new one was drawn up.
There would be presidential and legislative elections under terms set by the new constitution, which itself would be put to a referendum.