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Egypt army calls for rallies; Islamists warn of civil war
Published in The Saudi Gazette on 25 - 07 - 2013

In this image taken from Egypt State TV, Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah El-Sissi delivers a speech in Alexandria, Egypt, on Wednesday. El-Sissi has called on Egyptians to hold mass demonstrations to voice their support for the military to put an end to “violence” and “terrorism.” – AP


CAIRO – Egypt's army chief called Wednesday for rallies to back a crackdown on “terrorism and violence,” in comments Islamists denounced as a call to “civil war” ahead of their own protests.
With tensions already running high following the army's ouster of president Mohamed Morsi on July 3, the call by General Abdel Fattah El-Sisi for demonstrations raises the prospect of further violence on the streets between the pro- and anti-Morsi camps.
“Next Friday, all honorable Egyptians must take to the street to give me a mandate and command to end terrorism and violence,” said Sisi, wearing dark sunglasses as he took to the podium to address a graduation ceremony of military cadets near Alexandria.
A coalition of Islamists led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said they would press ahead with their own rallies on Friday, warning of “massacres” after Sisi's speech.
“Sisi's threats are an announcement of civil war,” the group said.
The the Pentagon said that the US is delaying its delivery of F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in light of the military overthrow of Morsi, but it has not decided whether to suspend military aid more broadly.
Pentagon press secretary George Little said President Barack Obama made the decision to hold up the F-16 delivery while the administration continues to review options and consult with Congress on military assistance generally.
The delay was the first direct action the US has taken since the Egyptian military ousted Morsi and installed a new civilian government. Under US law, military aid to a country that underwent a coup d'etat must be suspended. But the Obama administration says it is still trying to determine if what happened three weeks ago in Egypt was in fact a coup.
Egypt is a key ally in the Middle East and the administration is reluctant to cut off the $1.3 billion aid package it sends to Cairo every year.
Nearly 170 people have died in political unrest in Egypt since the end of June, many of them in clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents.
Sisi claimed he had been told by Morsi aides that removing the president would result in violence.
Presidential aides “told me if there is any problem there will be lots of violence because of armed groups, to scare me,” Sisi said in his speech.
After he spoke, security sources said gunmen killed a soldier in a noon attack in the Sinai peninsula, where militants have carried out daily attacks on security forces since Morsi's overthrow.
Senior Muslim Brotherhood leader Essam Al-Erian said Morsi loyalists would not be intimidated by the army chief's call for mass rallies.
“Your threat will not prevent millions from continuously protesting,” Erian said in a statement on his Facebook page. – Agencies


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