Thursday, July 4, 2013

Egypt army ousts President Mohammed Morsi, pledges fresh elections

Cairo: 04 Jul 2013

Egypt\'s powerful military on Wednesday night ousted country\'s first democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi and suspended the constitution after the 48-hour army deadline for him to meet people\'s demands expired.

Morsi, elected a year ago in a vote hailed as a new dawn for the Arab world\'s biggest nation after the uprising of 2011, was held at a military facility in Cairo, a security source said.


Earlier, in a shaky, handheld video, and in a Facebook post he denounced 'a full military coup' that would plunge Egypt into 'chaos'. But he urged his supporters not to fight back.

The head of the armed forces pledged new elections as part of a road map ironed out during a meeting with liberal opposition groups before Morsi\'s removal was announced. Liberals welcomed a relaunch of the transition to democracy, which they felt had been hijacked by Morsi\'s Muslim Brotherhood.

Military authorities immediately shut down television channels seen as sympathetic to the Muslim Brotherhood and began arresting other senior leaders.

Vast crowds partied in Cairo\'s Tahrir Square, recalling the Arab Spring revolution two years ago when the army toppled the autocrat Hosni Mubarak. But in clashes after dark across the country, at least 14 people were killed and over 340 wounded.

The fall of the first elected leader to emerge from the Arab Spring revolutions of 2011 raised questions about the future of political Islam, which had seemed triumphant. Deeply divided, Egypt\'s 84 million people find themselves again a focus of concern in a region traumatised by the civil war in Syria.

Straddling the Suez Canal and a key piece in the security of Israel, many powers have an interest in Egypt\'s stability.

The army put combat troops and tanks on streets around a gathering of thousands of Morsi\'s supporters in Cairo. It said it would keep order across the country. Within a couple of hours of the broadcast by military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, suspending the constitution and appointing the constitutional court\'s chief justice as interim head of state, three TV channels went off air. The Egyptian arm of Qatar\'s Al Jazeera was raided but kept transmitting.

The head of the political wing of Morsi\'s Muslim Brotherhood - the speaker of a disbanded parliament - was arrested at his home. A newspaper said warrants were issued for 300 Brotherhood members accused of inciting unrest.

OBAMA urges swift return civilian rule

US President Barack Obama, whose administration provides USD 1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed deep concerns about Morsi\'s removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government. But he stopped short of condemning a military move that could block US aid.

\"During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts,\" he said.

Obama urged the new authorities to avoid arbitrary arrests and said US agencies would review whether the military action would trigger sanctions on aid. A senator involved in aid decisions said the United State would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military coup.

Egypt military pledges no long-term takeover

Two US officials say that Egyptian defense leaders, who ousted President Mohammed Morsi, have assured the US that they are not interested in a long-term rule.

The official says the leaders, in calls with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly.

US officials also say the Egyptian military has said it will take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the diplomatic mission.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the matter. The comments came as the Egyptian military suspended the Islamist-backed constitution and called for early elections.
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