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Egypt braces for rival rallies on anniversary of 1973 war

Egypt's interim president has called for nationwide demonstrations to commemorate the 1973 Arab-Israeli war. But Islamists have vowed to march on Tahrir Square in protest against the military-backed government.

The Egyptian Interior Ministry has warned that it would "firmly confront" any unrest that disrupts the 40th anniversary on Sunday of Cairo's 1973 war with Israel. Authorities have tightened security across the country in anticipation of protests, according to state media.

"The Interior Ministry warns against attempts that may disturb the October 6 celebrations in Egypt," state news agency MENA quoted the ministry as saying.

Interim President Adly Mansour had called on Egyptians to take to the streets and commemorate the war's anniversary by supporting the armed forces.

"Be everywhere in Egypt, all streets and squares to celebrate your victory and support your army," Mansour said in a televised speech on Saturday. The 1973 war paved the way for the 1979 peace agreement, under which Israel gave the Sinai Peninsula back to Egypt.

Brotherhood calls demonstrations

But supporters of the outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and ousted President Mohammed Morsi have called for protests in Tahrir Square, which has been sealed off by the military.

"The Egypt Anti-Coup Alliance repeats its call to all Egyptians to continue their protests in every part of Egypt, and to gather in Tahrir Square on Sunday, October 6, to celebrate the army of that victory and its leaders," the bloc said in a press release.

According to political scientist Hassan Nafaa, the Anti-Coup Alliance wants to strip the army of its legacy and pride.

"They will try to show that the present army is not the army of all Egyptians, but only of those who backed the coup," Nafaa, a professor at Cairo University, told the AFP news agency.

The Brotherhood has been systematically targeted by the military-backed government since Morsi's overthrow, with most of the group's leadership detained and awaiting trial.

Potential for confrontation

The Tamarod movement, which organized the mass protests that led to Morsi's July overthrow, has also called for demonstrations on Sunday.

"We call all Egyptians to come out tomorrow across all squares in the country to assert that this nation will not allow its revolution to be stolen," prominent Tamarod leader Mahmoud Badr told reporters on Saturday.

On Friday, supporters and opponents of former President Morsi clashed in Cairo, leaving four people dead and another 40 wounded. Since Morsi's overthrow by the military on July 3, clashes between demonstrators and the military have left hundreds dead.

slk/lw (AFP, dpa)