By REUTERS LAST UPDATED: 07/03/2013 10:03
Al-Ahram reports military will form three-member presidential council to run the country; Morsi defies army, US pressure to bow to protests as clock ticks on army ultimatum for his resignation.
CAIRO – Egypt’s state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said it expected President Mohamed Morsi would either step down or be removed from office on Wednesday when a deadline set by the army for resolving the country’s political crisis expires.
Egypt’s flagship state daily said an army road map for the future would set up a three-member presidential council to be chaired by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
“Al-Ahram learnt that with the end of the 48-hour period set by the armed forces … it is expected in the hours that follow it, one of two things: either Morsi announces his resignation himself, or the declaration of his removal through the road map for the future set out by the armed forces,” it said.
Al-Ahram said the road map would set up a neutral transitional government to be headed by a military leader. The transitional period would last nine to 12 months in which a new constitution would be drafted to set out a path to presidential elections.
Egypt’s army commander and Morsi, who represents the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, each pledged his life to defy the other as the hour approached on Wednesday that will trigger a military takeover that was prompted by mass demonstrations.
The military chiefs issued a call to battle in a statement headlined “The Final Hours”. They said they were willing to shed blood against “terrorists and fools” after Morsi refused to give up his elected office. Morsi said, “The price … is my life.”
As a mass of revelers on Cairo’s Tahrir Square feted the army for saving the revolutionary democracy won there two years ago, supporters of the president’s Muslim Brotherhood denounced a “military coup”. Some clashed with security forces at Cairo University, where 16 people died and about 200 were wounded.
Military sources told Reuters the army had drafted a plan to sideline Morsi and suspend the constitution after a 5 p.m. (1500 GMT) deadline passes. Coordinated with political leaders, an interim council would rule pending new elections. The sources would not say what was planned for an uncooperative president.
Facing the expiry of a 48-hour ultimatum set by the head of the armed forces that he should agree to a power-sharing deal with his rivals, Morsi broadcast a defiant, if somewhat rambling, address to the nation to defend his “legitimacy” – a word he used repeatedly in the course of 45 minutes.
Liberal opposition leaders, who have vowed not to negotiate with Morsi since the ultimatum was issued, immediately denounced his refusal to go as a declaration of “civil war”. The youth movement that organized the mass protests urged the Republican Guard to arrest Morsi immediately and present him for trial.