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Protests Engulf Egypt

Published: 30/06/2013 08:18:05 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi massed up in city squares in rival rallies on Sunday, June 30, gearing up for a day of massive nationwide protests that most Egyptians fear coul (more)

CAIRO - Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi massed up in city squares in rival rallies on Sunday, June 30, gearing up for a day of massive nationwide protests that most Egyptians fear could turn violent.

“We're not for one side or the other,” 23-year-old Zeeka, a tomato merchant at an eerily quiet downtown Cairo street market, told Reuters.

“What's happening now in Egypt is shameful. There is no work, thugs are everywhere ... I won't go out to any protest. It's nothing to do with me. I'm a tomato guy.”

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Zeeka's frustration was a dominant atmosphere among lots of Egyptians on Sunday.

Their fear of violence outbreak appeared clearly in headlines of state newspaper including titles saying “Egypt gripped by fear” and “Egypt under the volcano”.

These headlines reflected a government view that liberal opposition leaders might let loose violent remnants of the old regime to overthrow the country's first freely elected leader.

On the other hand, businessmen-owned private newspapers urged people onto the streets on the very day that Morsi completes his first year in office.

“Street to Mursi: One year's enough,” headlined Al-Masry Al-Youm, while others referred to what many protesters will demand: “Red card for the president”.

The situation was much different at Cairo's different squares.

Thousands gathered on Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand the resignation of President Morsi.

“I am here to bring down Morsi and the Brotherhood,” said Ahmed Ali al-Badri, a feed merchant in a white robe.

“Just look at this country. It's gone backwards for 20 years. There's no diesel, gasoline, electricity. Life is just too expensive.”

Opposition leaders said they would lead a march at 5pm CLT to the Ittihadiya presidential palace, close to a neighborhood where thousands of Morsi supporters staged a counter-demonstration.

“I came here to say, 'We are with you Morsi, with the legitimate order and against the thugs',” said Ahmed Hosny, 37, a Morsi supporter at Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo's Nasr city where hundreds of thousands of Islamists gathered.

“This is our revolution and no one will take it from us.”

Mubarak Remnants

In an interview with London's Guardian newspaper, President Morsi repeated accusations against attempts by entrenched interests from the Mubarak era to foil his attempt to govern as a recipe for unending chaos.

“If we changed someone in office who [was elected] according to constitutional legitimacy - well, there will be people opposing the new president too, and a week or a month later they will ask him to step down,” Morsi said.

“There is no room for any talk against this constitutional legitimacy. There can be demonstrations and people expressing their opinions. But what's critical in all this is the adoption and application of the constitution. This is the critical point.”

Morsi claimed Egyptian private media channels had exaggerated the strength of his opponents, and blamed this week's violence on officials loyal to the former president Hosni Mubarak.

“They have money, and they got this money from corruption,” he said.

“They used this corrupt money to pull back the regime, and pull back the old regime into power. They pay this corrupt money to thugs, and then violence takes place.”

At least seven people have been killed and over 600 injured in clashes between Morsi's Islamist allies and their secular opposition over the past few days.

The Brotherhood said five of those killed were Morsi supporters, though no independent sources verified the number.

Religious authorities have warned of “civil war”.

Last week, Egypt's defense minister Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi signaled intervention after he warned that the army will not allow plunging Egypt into bloody strife.

Islamists interpret that to mean army support for election results while opponents believe that the army may heed the popular will as expressed on the streets, as it did in early 2011 when the generals decided Mubarak's time was up.

When asked whether he was confident that the army would never have to step in to control Egypt, Morsi replied: “Very.”

Reproduced with permission from