- The Washington Times - Wednesday, July 3, 2013

Egypt’s military ousted the country’s democratically elected president Wednesday and appointed a caretaker administrator, a move denounced by the deposed leader’s supporters as a coup but celebrated by millions of opponents with rallies and fireworks.

President Mohammed Morsi, who was later arrested, wrote a post on Twitter calling the military’s action “a full coup” that will be “categorically rejected by all the free men of our nation.”

In a much-anticipated televised address in Cairo on Wednesday night, Army Chief Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi explained the military’s plan to end a political crisis that has gripped the North African nation since Sunday.

President Obama, however, said later Wednesday evening he was deeply concerned about developments and called on the military to quickly return power to a civilian government.

The military appointed Adli Mansour, chief justice of the Supreme Constitutional Court, as interim president and temporarily suspended a constitution that Mr. Morsi’s Islamist government adopted last year. Mr. Mansour is expected to be sworn in Thursday.

The plan also calls for a national coalition government, early elections and a committee to amend the constitution.

SEE ALSO: John Bolton: U.S. ‘made big mistake’ pushing out Egypt’s Hosni Mubarak

The military imposed a travel ban on Mr. Morsi and senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood, as the Islamist movement’s TV station was taken off the air.

Violence was reported from 16 governorates across the country as tensions escalated between Mr. Morsi’s supporters and opponents.

Demands of the people

In his address, Gen. al-Sisi said the armed forces would never ignore the aspirations of the Egyptian people and would stay out of politics.

“The armed forces understood the demands of the Egyptian people,” he said.

Gen. al-Sisi drew support from a broad coalition, including representatives of the opposition Tamarod, or Rebel, movement, the fundamentalist Salafist Nour Party, Coptic Christian Pope Tawadros II and Egypt’s top Muslim cleric, Al-Azhar Sheik Ahmed el-Tayeb.

SEE ALSO: U.S. official: American diplomats ordered to leave Egypt

Mahmoud Badr, a Tamarod spokesman, said the removal of Mr. Morsi’s government put the “revolution back on track.”

“Let’s start a new page,” he said on Twitter. “Our hand is extended to all.”

Mohamed ElBaradei, the former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog who has been appointed by the opposition to represent it in negotiations on Egypt’s future, also appeared on TV with Gen. al-Sisi. He said the military road map addressed the demands of the Egyptian people.

Mr. Morsi’s opponents celebrated by dancing and waving flags as fireworks burst overhead in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the center of protests that ousted the autocratic rule of Hosni Mubarak in 2011. Millions have been gathered in the square since Sunday, demanding Mr. Morsi’s resignation and early elections.

The protesters accuse Mr. Morsi, who was elected in June of 2012, of consolidating his power, undermining state institutions and ignoring Egypt’s worsening economic and security problems.

The army deployed armored vehicles to Cairo’s Nasr City district, where thousands of Mr. Morsi’s supporters had gathered.

U.S. aid threatened

Mr. Obama said he was “deeply concerned” by the military’s decision and called on it to “move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters.”

Mr. Obama said he had directed relevant departments and agencies to review the implications under U.S. law for American assistance to Egypt.

The U.S. provides around $1.3 billion annually to Egypt, most of which goes to the military.

A determination that the military had carried out a coup could affect the flow of that aid.

Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, chairman of the Senate Appropriations subcommittee on foreign aid, warned that Egypt faces a legally required cutoff in U.S. aid because of the military overthrow of a democratically elected government.

But the Vermont Democrat added, “The Morsi government has been a great disappointment to the people of Egypt, and to all who wish Egypt a successful transition to responsive, representative government under the rule of law. He squandered a historic opportunity, preferring to govern by fiat rather than work with other political parties to do what is best for all Egyptians.”

Mr. Obama called on all sides to avoid violence and on the military to protect the rights of all Egyptians.

“The voices of all those who protested peacefully must be heard — including those who welcomed today’s developments, and those who have supported President Morsi,” he said.

Morsi’s defiant speech

Gen. al-Sisi on Monday gave Mr. Morsi and the opposition a 48-hour ultimatum to resolve the political crisis. He said the armed forces had been urging a national dialogue since November, but Mr. Morsi ignored these calls.

In November, Mr. Morsi unilaterally decreed greater powers for himself, gave his decisions immunity from judicial review, barred the courts from dissolving the legislature and pushed through a constitution drafted by his Islamist allies.

Gen. al-Sisi said the army’s hopes for reconciliation had been dashed by Mr. Morsi’s defiant speech Tuesday night when he vowed to defend his “constitutional legitimacy” with his life.

U.S. officials also were critical of Mr. Morsi’s speech.

“There was an absence of significant specific steps laid out in President Morsi’s speech,” said State Department spokesman Jennifer Psaki. “We had said that he must do more to be truly responsive and representative to the justified concerns expressed by the Egyptian people. And unfortunately, that was not a part of what he talked about in his speech.”

Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, headed by Gen. al-Sisi, responded to Mr. Morsi’s speech by saying it would “sacrifice even our blood for Egypt and its people, to defend them against any terrorist, radical or fool.”

The military denies that it has any intention of holding on to power, but it had been openly supportive of the anti-Morsi protesters with army helicopters dropping Egyptian flags on the demonstrators in Tahrir Square.

Mr. Morsi criticized the military for “taking only one side.”

The military held power for a year and a half after Arab Spring pro-democracy protests ended Mubarak’s 29-year rule on Feb. 11, 2011.

Egyptian defense leaders Wednesday assured Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin E. Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, that they had no interest in long-term rule and would soon put a civilian government in place, The Associated Press said.

Egypt receives around $1.3 billion in U.S. aid, which mostly goes to the military.

Brotherhood vows fight

On Wednesday, a senior adviser to Mr. Morsi and a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman accused the military of carrying out a coup.

“As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page,” Essam al-Haddad, Mr. Morsi’s adviser on foreign affairs, said in a Facebook post.

“For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.”

Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, said in a Twitter post that a “full military coup” was underway and in another post said Mr. Morsi was “under house arrest” at the presidential guard’s club. Mr. el-Hadded said most of Mr. Morsi’s principal advisers also were under house arrest.

As the clock ran out on the military’s ultimatum earlier Wednesday, Mr. Morsi’s office said he was committed to his own reform plan that included the formation of a coalition government and an independent commission to reform the constitution.

In his speech Tuesday night, Mr. Morsi acknowledged he had made some mistakes in his first year in office but asked for more time.

• Ashish Kumar Sen can be reached at asen@washingtontimes.com.

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