Egypt's military has urged rival political forces to solve their disputes via dialogue. The statement has come one day after more than 10,000 opposition protesters swarmed President Mohammed Morsi’s Cairo palace.
Egypt's military said on Saturday it "supports dialogue" to resolve the political crisis dividing the nation, and said the opposite would drag the country into a "dark tunnel", which it would not allow.
A statement issued by the military spokesman and read on state radio and television made no mention of Morsi, but said a solution to the political crisis should not contradict "legitimacy and the rules of democracy."
The spokesman said the military's duty was to protect national interests and secure vital state institutions.
"The armed forces ... realize their responsibility to preserve the higher interests of the country and to secure and protect vital targets, public institutions and the interests of innocent citizens," the statement said.
"The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus," the statement continued. "The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."
The statement said Egyptians were capable of expressing their views peacefully "far from all displays of violence".
The spiritual leader of Egypt's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood on Saturday also urged Egyptians to disown violence, saying that working through the ballot box is the best way to lift the country out of its current political crisis.
Egypt has been engulfed in turmoil linked to a contentious draft constitution backed by Morsi, who hails from the Brotherhood, and his Islamist allies.
Brotherhood supreme guide Mohammed Badie says the group's supporters did not initiate the violent clashes this week outside the presidential palace that left at least six people dead.
The opposition fears Morsi's "power grab" and constitutional referendum, set for December 15, aim to push the country towards a more Islamic state.
Morsi offered to hold talks with the opposition on Saturday, but that was rebuffed by the National Salvation Front coalition.
One of the Front's leaders, Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN atomic agency chief and Nobel Peace laureate, stressed late Friday that dialogue could only happen if Morsi agreed to "repeal the decree" and postpone the referendum.
hc/sej (Reuters, AFP, AP)