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Egypt

Egyptian President Morsi criticizes military ultimatum

Mohammed Morsi's office has criticized a "last-chance" military ultimatum asking him to fix Egypt's political unrest or face intervention. High ranking administration officials continue to step down amid the turmoil.

President Morsi's spokesman criticized the military's action Tuesday, saying in a statement that Morsi was not consulted.

Egyptian military issues ultimatum

The military's ultimatum, read on state TV Monday, put pressure on Morsi to step down and huge crowds of people took to the streets in celebration. The military said the president had 48 hours to reach an agreement with the opposition or the armed forces would intervene.

More resignations

The official MENA news agency reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr had submitted his resignation. Amr is the most high profile minister to resign after the ministers of communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities all resigned the day before. Two of Morsi's spokesmen, Omar Amer and Ihab Fahmy, also stepped down.

Adding to Morsi's woes, Egypt's top court also ordered public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud to be reinstated. Mahmud was sacked by the president in November, sparking a bitter dispute between Morsi and the judiciary.

Anti-Morsi protesters remained in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a third day of demonstrations. Across the capital, the president's Islamist supporters were in their own rallying site resisting what they call a coup against Egypt's first democratically elected leader. A televised statement from an alliance of the Muslim Brotherhood and Islamists had called on people to rally to prevent "any attempt to overturn" Morsi's victory in the country's election last year.

Obama, UN want solutions

President Barack Obama called Morsi urging him to respond to his detractors, the White House said on Tuesday, adding that a solution to Egypt's political strife could only be achieved through talks. Obama also called for both sides to ensure the rallies stay peaceful.

The US president "told President Morsi that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group," the White House said.

The UN Human Rights office said Morsi should listen to the Egyptian people's demands and engage in a "serious national dialogue" to find a solution to the political upheaval.

Military intervention

The military's ultimatum said that the armed forces would "announce a road map for the future and measures to implement it" should the president fail to reach a consensus with his opponents.

The tough stance has raised concern that they could take complete control of the country, as they did after Hosni Mubarak's ousting in 2011. Such a move would risk backlash from Morsi's supporters, including his powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Hours after their initial statement the military said on its Facebook page that it did not intend to stage a coup. "The ideology and culture of the Egyptian armed forces does not allow for the policy of a military coup," it said.

Egypt's main opposition group the National Salvation Front also said it would "not support a military coup" and insisted that "asking Morsi to resign is not against democratic procedures."

dr/hc (AP, dpa, Reuters, AFP)

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