Re: I hope I was right on Egypt: Army moves against Morsi (?)
posted at 7/3/2013 2:47 PM EDT
CAIRO — With a potentially violent showdown looming between Egypt’s military and the Islamist backers of President Mohamed Morsi, the country’s top generals summoned civilian political leaders to an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss a new interim government while moving tanks toward the presidential palace and restricting Mr. Morsi’s travel — new signals of an impending military takeover. A top presidential adviser said a coup already was under way.
The developments came as street tensions intensified and a 48-hour deadline imposed by the military generals on the increasingly isolated president to meet the demands of millions of unhappy Egyptians came and went.
By 6:30 p.m. military forces began moving around Cairo. Tanks and troops headed for the presidential palace — although it was unclear whether Mr. Morsi was inside — while other soldiers ringed the nearby square where tens of thousands of the president’s supporters were rallying.
Many of the Islamists had armed themselves with makeshift clubs, shields made of potcovers or metal scraps and plastic hard hats, and there were small scuffles with the better-armed soldiers. Some soldiers fired their weapons in the air. But the military forces held back.
Soldiers also were seen erecting barbed-wire fences and barriers around a barracks were President Morsi may have been working, Reuters reported, quoting witnesses.
Mr. Morsi’s senior foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, issued an open letter Wednesday afternoon on his official Web page lamenting what he called the imminent takeover of Egypt’s first freely elected government.
“As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page,” he wrote. “For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.”
Security officials said the military’s intelligence service had banned any travel by President Morsi and senior Islamist aides, including the Muslim Brotherhood’s supreme guide, Mohamed Badie, and his influential deputy, Khairat el-Shater.
People close to the president said at around the same time that talks with the generals continued but looked increasingly futile. A decisive move was expected within hours, these people said, although the president and his advisers remained at liberty.
With millions of Egyptians waiting to see what the military would do, Mr. Morsi reiterated in a Facebook posting what he had said in a long and rambling televised speech Tuesday night, vowing to stay in power as Egypt’s first democratically elected president following the 2011 revolution that overthrew Hosni Mubarak.
“The presidency reaffirms that violating constitutional legitimacy threatens democratic practice by veering off the right track and threatens the freedom of expression that Egypt has lived since the revolution,” the statement said.
Among those called to the meeting with the generals was Mohamed ElBaradei, the former United Nations diplomat who has been tapped by the protesters demanding Mr. Morsi’s ouster as one of their negotiators over a new interim government, Reuters reported, citing unnamed official sources.
Mr. ElBaradei has been an outspoken critic of Mr. Morsi and his allies in the Muslim Brotherhood, the Constitution they pushed to a referendum and the previous period of military rule. He has declined to comment in his current position. News agencies reported that top Muslim and Christian religious authorities were invited as well.
Gehad el-Haddad, a Brotherhood spokesman, vowed that the group would not bend in its defiance of the military. “The only plan,” he said in a statement posted online, “is to stand in front of the tanks.”
The Obama administration, which has been watching the crisis with increased worry, reiterated that it had taken no sides and hoped for a peaceful outcome. “We do, of course, remain very concerned about what we’re seeing on the ground,” a State Department spokeswoman, Jennifer R. Psaki, told reporters a daily briefing. “And we do realize, of course, that is an extremely tense and fast-moving situation in Egypt.”
The escalating tensions between Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters and their opponents continued to spur street violence overnight. Egyptian officials said at least 18 people had died and more than 300 were injured in fighting near an Islamist rally in support of Mr. Morsi near Cairo University. State media reported that the dead included victims from both sides and that most died of gunshot wounds.
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