June 30, 2013

Egyptian protesters demand Morsi's ouster

Fears grow that backers of President Morsi could be on a collision course with the demonstrators.

(Continued from page 2)

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Egyptians gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo in a demonstration against President Mohammed Morsi on Sunday. Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians poured onto the streets in Cairo and across Egypt, launching an all-out push to force Morsi from office on the one-year anniversary of his inauguration.

The Associated Press

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Egyptian protesters hold a banner in Tahrir Square during a demonstration against Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo on Sunday.

The Associated Press

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In Tahrir, chants of "erhal!", or "leave!", thundered around the square. The crowd, which appeared to number some 300,000, waved Egyptian flags and posters of Morsi with a red X over his face. They whistled and waved happily when military helicopters swooped close overhead, reflecting their belief that the army favors them over Morsi.

A week ago, with the public sense of worry growing over the upcoming confrontation, Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi demanded the president and his opponents reach a compromise. He warned that the military would intervene to prevent the nation from entering a "dark tunnel."

Army troops backed by armored vehicles were deployed Sunday in some of Cairo's suburbs, with soldiers at traffic lights and major intersections. IN the evening, they deployed near the international airport, state TV said.

Similarly sized crowds turned out in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the Nile Delta cities of Mansoura, Tanta and Damanhour, with sizeable rallies in cities nationwide.

"Today is the Brotherhood's last day in power," Suliman Mohammed, a manager of a seafood company, said in Tahrir.

The opposition protests emerge from a petition campaign by a youth activist group known as Tamarod, Arabic for "Rebel." For several months, the group has been collecting signatures on a call for Morsi to step down.

On Saturday the group announced it had more than 22 million signatures – proof, it claims, that a broad sector of the public no longer wants Morsi in office.

It was not possible to verify the claim. If true, it would be nearly twice the around 13 million people who voted for Morsi in last year's presidential run-off election, which he won with around 52 percent of the vote. Tamarod organizers said they discarded about 100,000 signed forms because they were duplicates.

Morsi's supporters have questioned the authenticity and validity of the signatures, but have produced no evidence of fraud.

At the pro-Morsi rally at the Rabia al-Adawiya Mosque, the crowd chanted, "God is great," and some held up copies of Islam's holy book, the Quran.

"The people hold the legitimacy and we support Dr. Mohamed Morsi," Ahmed Ramadan, one of those at the rally said. "We would like to tell him not to be affected by the opponents' protests and not to give up his rights we are here to support and protect him."

One of the world's most prominent Muslim clerics, Sheik Yousef El-Qaradawi, who is close to the Brotherhood, appealed to Egyptians to give Morsi a chance, saying if Morsi goes, "someone who's worse than Morsi" would replace him.

"It's not easy to change a president with another one but it's better to correct him," el-Qaradawi, an Egyptian who has lived in Qatar for many years, said on Al-Jazeera Mubasher Misr TV.

Ibrahim Ahmed, a 59-year-old retired civil servant who was at Tahrir with Yassin, his five-year-old grandson, snorted at the idea.

"He wants us to be patient with Morsi? No, thank you. Look at what happened in one year. The Egyptian pound is going down and the country is being Brotherhood-ized," he said.

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