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Egypt army gives Morsi 48 hours to share power

02 July, 2013

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CAIRO: Egypt's powerful armed forces gave President Mohamed Morsi a virtual ultimatum on Monday to share power, urging the nation's feuding politicians to agree on an inclusive roadmap for the country's future within 48 hours.

A dramatic military statement broadcast on state television declared the nation was in danger after millions of Egyptians took to the streets on Sunday to demand that Morsi quit and the headquarters of the ruling Muslim Brotherhood were ransacked. "If the demands of the people are not realised within the defined period, it will be incumbent upon (the armed forces) ... to announce a road map for the future," said the statement by chief-of-staff General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

It was followed by patriotic music. The people had expressed their will with unprecedented clarity in the mass demonstrations and wasting more time would only increase the danger of division and strife, he said. The army said it would oversee the implementation of the roadmap it sought "with the participation of all factions and national parties, including young people", but it would not get directly involved in politics or government.

Anti-Morsi demonstrators outside the presidential palace cheered the army statement, and the main opposition National Salvation Front, which has demanded a national unity government for months, applauded the military's move. On Cairo's Tahrir Square, thousands were celebrating the army's move: "We want a new armed forces council to govern until new elections," said accountant Mohamed Ibrahim, 50. "The army alone supports the legitimate revolutionary will of the people." There was no immediate reaction from the president's office.

It was the second time in just over a week that the armed forces had issued a formal warning to the politicians, piling pressure on Morsi to concede power-sharing with the liberal, secular and left-wing opposition. Analysts said the military intervention could serve Morsi if he wished to compromise, but it risked giving his opponents an incentive to harden their demands, sensing support from the street and the generals, at the risk of triggering a coup.

"The ultimatum has the ring of a potential coup," said Yasser al-Shimy of the International Crisis Group think-tank. "What makes it not a coup is it gives time for the politicians to sort out their differences."

End.

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