CAIRO – Egypt’s ruling military escalated its tone against pro-democracy activists Wednesday, warning of an attempt to “topple the state,” as government media said a plot had been uncovered to use upcoming protests to throw the country into a civil war.

The statements stepped up a campaign by the military that has seemed intended to demonize protesters in the eyes of the Egyptian public. The warnings could signal a heavier crackdown on activists who demand that the generals who took power after the fall of Hosni Mubarak in February step down.

They come after more than four days of heavy clashes as soldiers tried to break up protests outside parliament and the Cabinet headquarters in a crackdown that killed 14 people and left hundreds injured. The fighting eased Tuesday, but the atmosphere in Egypt has become more bitter and confused.

The generals and the pro-democracy activists who led the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak are locked in a worsening confrontation. Some activists have put forward proposals to try to defuse the clash by having the military hand over power in January, either to the head of the next parliament or by holding early presidential elections to choose a new head of state.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, head of the ruling military council, announced that parliament would convene January 23, just two days before the one-year anniversary of the start of Egypt’s uprising, according to the state news agency.