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Egypt

Egyptian army forces Morsi from office, suspends constitution

Egypt's army has ousted Mohammed Morsi and named the country's top judge as interim president. A senior member of the president's Muslim Brotherhood group said Morsi was in military custody.

Muslim Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad wrote on his Twitter feed that Morsi was placed under house arrest at the headquarters of the Republican Guard along with several other Brotherhood members. He later said Morsi had been separated and taken to the defense ministry.

News agency AFP subsequently quoted a "senior army official" as saying that Morsi "is being held preventively for final preparations."

Cairo's Tahrir Square, the centerpoint of the public protests opposing Morsi, erupted with glee on Wednesday evening when the military announced that it was seizing control after a 48-hour deadline imposed on Morsi to find a compromise expired. People let off fireworks, sang and cheered on hearing the announcement.

Army announces transition

Egyptian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi said on national television that head of the country's Supreme Constitutional Court, Adly Mansour, would act as interim president.

He pledged the creation of a national unity government to serve in the interim before fresh elections, adding that a "strong and capable" government would be formed that would have "full capacities."

Al-Sissi also announced the formation of a panel that would look into amendments to the constitution and a law would be drafted to regulate parliamentary elections. The current constitution - drafted in a committee dominated by Morsi's Islamist allies - had been suspended, he said.

Several Islamist television stations, including the Brotherhood's Misr25, were taken off the air immediately after al-Sissi's announcement.

A statement on the Egyptian president's office's Twitter account quoted Morsi as saying that the actions of the military amounted to "a full coup."

Ultimatum expires

On Monday, the Egyptian army had given Morsi 48 hours to reach a compromise deal with the opposition - or face an imposed military solution.

In a last minute statement before the Wednesday deadline expired between 4 p.m. and 5 p.m. local time (1400 to 1500 GMT), Morsi himself criticized the military for "taking only one side."

He added that respecting his electoral legitimacy was the only way to prevent violence. In a statement posted on his Facebook page, Morsi called for national dialogue to end the political crisis. Morsi narrowly won a presidential runoff election last June, claiming 51.7 percent of the vote and becoming Egypt's first democratically elected president.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle, on an official visit to Greece, called for calm in Cairo.

"We appeal to all those involved to continue on the path to democracy, to refrain from violence and to place their trust in dialogue," Westerwelle said.

"These are the first five minutes of an historic hour in Egypt," the German foreign minister said, adding that dialogue, a willingness to compromise and equality between political powers were necessary "so that this young democracy in Egypt does not immediately fail, but rather gets a fair chance."

Sporadic clashes were reported in several cities around Egypt overnight. State-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported eight deaths and 343 injuries. The Brotherhood's El-Haddad also said on Twitter that men in plain clothes had opened fire for around 15 minutes on a group of Morsi supporters protesting against the military intervention.

msh,rc/dr (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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