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Abdel Fattah al-Sisi: Egyptian Army Ready With Roadmap

July 03, 2013

Egypt Wednesday was headed toward a tense political showdown, with its Islamist government and military leadership each warning they are ready to shed blood in order to protect the nation.

Just hours before his Wednesday deadline for a resolution to the unrest, Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said the military is ready to sacrifice its blood to defend the country against what he said were terrorists and fools.

The statement was presumably aimed at President Mohamed Morsi, who hours earlier defended his legitimacy and vowed to remain in office, even if it resulted in his death. He also demanded the military withdraw its threat to intervene in the country's political crisis.

The army has warned it will impose a "roadmap" for Egypt's future if differences between Morsi and his opponents are not resolved by 5:00 p.m. local time (1500 UTC, 11:00 a.m. EDT) Wednesday. Military sources say senior army commanders are holding emergency talks Wednesday, just before the deadline expires.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has angrily dismissed the ultimatum as an attempt to stage a military coup. Its spokesman, Gehad El-Haddad, tells VOA the group will not take up arms and go after the military. But he says it will directly interfere in any attempt to force Morsi to leave.

"If the tanks roll up to the president, we're going to stand in their way. And then the tanks have one of two choices: they roll over us and our dead bodies, or they stand still and respect the legitimacy of our president," he said. "There is no third option here."

Meanwhile, large numbers of Egyptians continued to demonstrate in Cairo for a fourth straight day on Wednesday, some backing their Islamist president and many others demanding he resign.

At one pro-Morsi rally near Cairo University, health ministry officials said 16 people were killed and over 200 wounded during clashes late Tuesday. Earlier, clashes between Mr. Morsi's supporters and opponents killed at least seven people in the capital.

Some members of Egypt's opposition have warned the unrest may only grow worse as the result of Morsi's defiant speech, which was rejected by one opposition spokesman as an "open call for civil war."

President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood has also intensified its rhetoric, with leaders warning Tuesday its members are ready to accept martyrdom to prevent what the group considers a military coup against its elected leader.

Parts of the military's plan leaked to Egypt's state-run news agency and other media indicate that military officials are prepared to suspend the constitution, dissolve the legislature and set up an interim administration.

The army has said it is not interested in long-term political power. But that assurance was rejected by Haddad and other Muslim Brotherhood members, many of whom are suspicious of the military's backing of decades of harsh, authoritarian rule.

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