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Egypt in crisis after military gives Morsi "last-chance" ultimatum

Egypt is in crisis after the military issued a "last-chance" ultimatum to Mohammed Morsi giving him 48 hours to fix the country's political unrest or face intervention. The foreign minister has stepped amid the turmoil.

Anti-Morsi protesters remained camped out in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday ahead of what is expected to be a third day of demonstrations. Across the capital, the president's Islamist supporters were in their own rallying site getting ready to resist what they call a coup against Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

The military's ultimatum, read on state TV Monday, put pressure on Morsi to step down and huge crowds of people took to the streets in celebration. The president's spokesman criticized the military's action, saying in a statement that Morsi was not consulted.

The official MENA news agency reported Tuesday that Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr had submitted his resignation. Amr is the most high profile minister to resign after the ministers of communications, legal affairs, environment, tourism and water utilities all resigned the day before.

Adding to Morsi's woes, Egypt's top court also ordered public prosecutor Abdel Meguid Mahmud to be reinstated. Mahmud was sacked by the president in November, sparking a bitter dispute between Morsi and the judiciary.

Obama calls Morsi

President Barack Obama called Morsi urging him to respond to his detractors, the White House said on Tuesday, adding that a solution to Egypt's political strife could only be achieved through talks. Obama also called for both sides to ensure the rallies stay peaceful.

The US president "told President Morsi that the United States is committed to the democratic process in Egypt and does not support any single party or group," The White House said.

Obama spoke with his Egyptian counterpart from Tazania, where he wrapping up an eight-day African trip.

Call to action

Thousands of pro-Morsi demonstrators began marching in cities across Egypt Monday night after the military issued its ultimatum. A televised statement from an alliance of the Brotherhood and Islamists called on people to rally to prevent "any attempt to overturn" Morsi's victory in the country's election last year.

After midnight, Morsi's office issued a statement saying a "modern democratic state" was one of the achievements of the 2011 revolution and that "with all its force, Egypt will not allow itself to be taken backwards."

Morsi was still reviewing the military's ultimatum, the statement said, some parts of which "could cause disturbances in the complicated national scene."

Military intervention

The military's ultimatum said that the armed forces would "announce a road map for the future and measures to implement it" should the president fail to reach a consensus with his opponents.

The tough stance has raised concern that they could take complete control of the country, as they did after Hosni Mubarak's ousting in 2011. Such a move would risk backlash from Morsi's supporters, including his powerful Muslim Brotherhood organization.

Hours after their initial statement the military said on its Facebook page that it did not intend to stage a coup. "The ideology and culture of the Egyptian armed forces does not allow for the policy of a military coup," it said.

Egypt's main opposition group the National Salvation Front also said it would "not support a military coup" and insisted that "asking Morsi to resign is not against democratic procedures."

dr/hc (AP, dpa, Reuters)

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