CAIRO – Egypt’s top-ranking defense official warned Sunday that the military was “ready to intervene to stop the violence” ahead of scheduled mass protests to mark the first anniversary this week of Mohammed Morsi’s inauguration as Egypt’s first democratically elected president.
Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi’s comments were the most forceful to date by a senior official of Egypt’s military in response to months of unrest, and seemed to threaten a military coup if protests lead to bloodshed or, as el-Sissi described it, “uncontrollable conflict.”
El-Sissi gave Morsi and his opponents a week to reconcile.
“There is a state of division in the society, and the continuation of it is a danger to the Egyptian state,” said el-Sissi, who also is the supreme commander of the armed forces and was appointed to his position by Morsi last August. The military has a “patriotic and moral responsibility” to defend Egyptians from violence, he said.
El-Sissi issued his comments in simple Egyptian dialect instead of classic, formal Arabic, language that all Egyptians could understand. He sought to appear unbiased and retain the military’s place as the national voice of the people, but suggested the onus was on Morsi to repair the political divisions.
Both sides must reach a “genuine reconciliation,” el Sissi said.
Morsi met with el-Sissi afterward. In a written statement, Morsi’s office said the president and defense chief discussed the “domestic scene and the government’s efforts to maintain the security of the nation and the safety of its citizens.”
Many Egyptians have been in a state of near-panic for several days over what will happen during and after the protests leading up to Saturday’s anniversary. Some are calling for Morsi to step down.