Cairo — Egypt’s army commander and Islamist President Mohamed Mursi each pledged to die for his cause as a deadline neared on Wednesday that will trigger a military takeover backed by protesters.
Military chiefs, vowing to restore order in a country racked by demonstrations over Mursi’s Islamist policies, issued a call to battle in a statement headlined “The Final Hours”. They said they were willing to shed blood against “terrorists and fools” after Mursi refused to give up his elected office.
The armed forces general command was holding a crisis meeting, a military source said, less than five hours before an ultimatum was due to expire for Mursi to either agree to share power or make way for an army-imposed solution.
In an emotional, rambling midnight television address, the president said he was democratically elected and would stay in office to uphold the constitutional order, declaring: “The price of preserving legitimacy is my life.”
Liberal opponents said it showed he had “lost his mind”.
The official spokesman of his Muslim Brotherhood movement said his supporters were willing to become martyrs to defend Mursi.
“There is only one thing we can do: we will stand in between the tanks and the president,” Gehad El-Haddad told Reuters at the movement’s protest encampment in a Cairo suburb that houses many military installations and is near the presidential palace.
“We will not allow the will of the Egyptian people to be bullied again by the military machine.”
The state-run Al-Ahram newspaper said Mursi was expected to either step down or be removed from office and that the army would set up a three-member presidential council to be chaired by the head of the Supreme Constitutional Court.
A military source said he expected the army to first call political, social and economic figures and youth activists for talks on its draft roadmap for the country’s future.