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Egypt army topples president Morsi

Egyptian protesters calling for the ouster of President Mohamed Morsi react as they watch his speech. (AFP)

Egypt's armed forces overthrew elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi today and announced a political transition with the support of a wide range of political, religious and youth leaders.

After a day of drama in which tanks and troops deployed near the presidential palace as a military deadline for Morsi to yield to mass protests passed, the top army commander announced on television that the president had "failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people".

Flanked by political and religious leaders and top generals, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi announced the suspension of the Islamist-tinged constitution and a roadmap for a return to democratic rule under a revised rulebook.

The president of the supreme constitutional court will act as interim head of state, assisted by an interim council and a technocratic government until new presidential and parliamentary elections are held.

"Those in the meeting have agreed on a roadmap for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division," Sisi said in a solemn address broadcast live on state television.

After he spoke, hundreds of thousands of anti-Morsi protesters in central Cairo's Tahrir Square erupted into wild cheering, setting off fireworks and waving flags. Cars drove around the capital honking their horns in celebration.

But a statement published in Morsi's name on his official Facebook page after Sisi's speech said the measures announced amounted to "a full military coup" and were "totally rejected".

The Arab world's most populous nation has been in turmoil since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak as Arab Spring uprisings took hold in early 2011, arousing concern among allies in the West and in Israel, with which Egypt has a 1979 peace treaty.

The Muslim Brotherhood president, in office for just a year, was at a Republican Guard barracks surrounded by barbed wire, barriers and troops, but it was not clear whether he was under arrest. The state newspaper Al-Ahram said the military had told Morsi at 7 p.m. (1700 GMT) that he was no longer head of state.

Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by protests over Morsi's Islamist policies, earlier issued a call to battle in a statement headlined "The Final Hours". They said they were willing to shed blood against "terrorists and fools".

Armoured vehicles took up position outside the state broadcasting headquarters on the Nile River bank, where soldiers patrolled the corridors and non-essential staff were sent home.

In another show of force, several hundred soldiers with armoured vehicles staged a parade near the presidential palace, and security sources said Morsi and the entire senior leadership of his Muslim Brotherhood were banned from leaving the country.

Security sources told the authorities had sent a list of at least 40 leading members of the Brotherhood to airport police.

In a last-ditch statement a few minutes before the deadline, Morsi's office said a coalition government could be part of a solution to overcome the political crisis. But opposition parties refused to negotiate with him and met instead with the commander of the armed forces.

The Brotherhood's Egypt25 television station had broadcast live coverage of a rally of tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, even as the army moved tanks into position to prevent them from marching on the presidential palace or the Republican Guard barracks.

US oil prices rose to a 14-month high above $100 a barrel partly on fears that unrest in Egypt could destabilise the Middle East and lead to supply disruption.

The massive anti-Morsi protests showed that the Brotherhood had not only alienated liberals and secularists by seeking to entrench Islamic rule, notably in a new constitution, but had also angered millions of Egyptians with economic mismanagement.

Tourism and investment have dried up, inflation is rampant and fuel supplies are running short, with power cuts lengthening in the summer heat and motorists spending hours fuelling cars.

Earlier, Morsi's spokesman said it was better that he die in defence of democracy than be blamed by history.

"It is better for a president, who would otherwise be returning Egypt to the days of dictatorship, from which God and the will of the people has saved us, to die standing like a tree," spokesman Ayman Ali said, "Rather than be condemned by history and future generations for throwing away the hopes of Egyptians for establishing a democratic life."

Liberal opponents said a rambling late-night television address by Morsi showed he had "lost his mind".

The official spokesman of the Muslim Brotherhood said supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend Morsi.

"There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president," Gehad El-Haddad told at the movement's protest encampment in a Cairo suburb that houses many military installations and is near the presidential palace.

The country's two main religious leaders, the head of the Al-Azhar Islamic institute and the Coptic Pope, both expressed their support for the army's roadmap in speeches after Sisi, as did the main liberal opposition leader, Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei.

US declines to criticize Egypt's military as it ousts Morsi

The United States declined on Wednesday to criticize Egypt's military, even as it was ousting Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi from power.

Minutes before Egypt's army commander announced that Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, had been deposed and the constitution suspended, the US State Department criticized Morsi, but gave no public signal it was opposed to the army's action.

Asked whether the Egyptian army had the legitimacy to remove Morsi from power, State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said, "We're not taking sides in this."

The muted US response - at least thus far - to the dramatic events in Cairo suggested that Washington may be willing to accept the military's move as a way of ending a political crisis that has paralyzed Egypt, a longtime US ally.

Still, the distant attitude toward Morsi, who has come under US criticism in recent days, could open up President Barack Obama to complaints he has not supported democracy in the Arab world.

There was no immediate reaction from the White House or the State Department to the military's announcement that it was installing a technocratic government eventually to be followed by new elections.

But the fact the Egyptian military announced plans for elections and a constitutional review, and that those plans were immediately backed by the country's leading Muslim and Christian clerics, could help the transition road map earn Washington's backing.

Earlier, Psaki made clear that US officials were disappointed in Morsi's speech tonight. In that speech, Morsi said he would defend the legitimacy of his elected office with his life.

Morsi must "do more to be truly responsive" to the concerns of Egyptian people" after huge rallies over the weekend, she said. "We are calling on him to take more steps."

US Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said that his panel would review the $1.5 billion in annual assistance the country sends to Egypt in the wake of the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.

"Egypt's military leaders say they have no intent or desire to govern, and I hope they make good on their promise," Leahy said in a statement. "In the meantime, our law is clear: US aid is cut off when a democratically elected government is deposed by military coup or decree."

Fourteen dead as Morsi opponents and supporters clash

At least 14 people were killed when opponents and supporters of Egypt's deposed president, Mohamed Morsi, clashed after the army announced his removal on Wednesday, state media and officials said.

Eight of those reported dead were in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh. Al-Anani Hamouda, a senior provincial security official, said two members of security forces were among those killed in the clashes.

Three people were killed and at least 50 wounded in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, state news agency MENA reported. Gunfire broke out as rocks and bricks flew during the fighting, witnesses said.

One of the city's dead was a woman stabbed in the stomach, MENA said. The other two were men hit by birdshot.

"We are dealing with the situation. ... We have called for security reinforcements in the area," said senior police officer Sherif Abdelhamid.

Three people were also killed in the southern Egyptian city of Minya, including two police, MENA said. It said 14 people were wounded.

Dozens more were wounded in Fayoum, south of Cairo, where unidentified assailants broke into the local offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing, MENA said.

The attackers looted the headquarters and set them on fire, it said.

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Tags:  World  Egypt  Protests  Muhamed Morsi  Coup  





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