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Morsi ousted by Egyptian army chief, emergency imposed

Updated Jul 04, 2013 01:08am

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This image made from video shows Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi addressing the nation on Egyptian State Television Wednesday, July 3, 2013. – AP Photo
This image made from video shows Lt. Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sisi addressing the nation on Egyptian State Television Wednesday, July 3, 2013. – AP Photo
Egyptian protesters calling for ouster of President Morsi  gather in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on July 2, 2013. —AFP Photo
Egyptian protesters calling for ouster of President Morsi gather in Cairo's landmark Tahrir Square on July 2, 2013. —AFP Photo
Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shout slogans during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. —AP Photo
Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi shout slogans during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, July 3, 2013. —AP Photo
Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, set-off fireworks as they gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013. – Reuters Photo
Protesters, who are against Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, set-off fireworks as they gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo July 3, 2013. – Reuters Photo

CAIRO: President Mohamed Morsi has been ousted by Egyptian army chief on Wednesday as he declared on live television that the country will now have a technocrat government and a committee will review the constitution.

The head of Egypt's army, General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi also said that the head of Egypt's Constitutional Court has been appointed head of the state. The chief justice of the constitutional court is expected to be sworn in on Thursday.

The Islamist-backed constitution has been suspended and the army chief called for an early elections.

Sisi said a panel would be formed to look into amendments to the constitution and a law would be drafted to regulate parliamentary elections.

Cheers and fireworks erupted among millions of protesters nationwide who were demanding Morsi's ouster.

After the announcement, Morsi denounced the move as an “illegal” and urged Egyptians to “peacefully resist the coup as he himself will do”, a senior aide told AFP.

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said the roadmap announced by Sisi “meets the the people's demands for early presidential elections”.

An interim administration that will govern Egypt in an army transition plan will determine when presidential and parliamentary elections will take place, the army spokesman told Reuters.

Two US officials say that Egyptian defence leaders have assured the US that they are not interested in a long-term rule.

The official says the leaders, in calls with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly.

US officials also say the Egyptian military has said it will take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the diplomatic mission.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak on the record about the matter.

The army's dramatic move comes after millions of Egyptians took to the streets to call for his ouster, accusing him of betraying the 2011 revolution that brought him to power.

“Come here O Sisi, Morsi isn't my president,” the flag-waving protesters chanted in the square, referring to army chief and defence minister, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi.

In scorching heat, police officers handed out bottles of water to the demonstrators crammed around their patrol vehicle in the middle of Tahrir, epicentre of the Arab Spring-inspired uprising in 2011.

The powerful military had issued a 48-hour deadline on Monday for Morsi to meet the “people's demands”, a day after millions of protesters took to the streets across the troubled country calling for him to resign.

Thousands of people were also gathered in Nasr City in a show of support for Morsi, despite an attack by a group of men that killed 16 of them and left 200 injured overnight.

That spate of bloodletting took to almost 50 the number of people killed in Egypt since the latest crisis flared a week ago ahead of Sunday's anniversary of Morsi's first turbulent year in power. The interior ministry warned police would respond firmly to any further violence on Wednesday as the armed forces took up positions around key Cairo installations, including the state broadcaster.

Opponents accuse Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, of having betrayed the revolution by concentrating power in Islamist hands and of sending the economy into freefall.

His supporters say he inherited many problems, and that he should be allowed to complete his term, which runs until 2016.

Ahead of the deadline at 4:30 pm (1430 GMT), General Sisi held talks with top brass, a source close to the army told AFP.

Sisi later went into a meeting with opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, Coptic Christian Patriarch Tawadros II and Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb, the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning.

Also present were representatives of the Salafist Al-Nur party, the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, and members of the Tamarod movement that organised the anti-Morsi protests.

Military spokesman Colonel Ahmed Aly said the armed forces general command had “held talks with religious, political, national and youth leaders” and that it would issue a statement as soon the meeting is over.

In an early morning speech, Morsi said he had been freely elected to lead Egypt a little more than a year ago and intended to stick to his task. The only alternative was more bloodshed, he warned.

Upping the stakes, senior armed forces commanders meeting on Wednesday swore to defend Egypt with their lives, a source close to the military told AFP.

Aside from Tahrir and Nasr City, Cairo's streets were unusually quiet Wednesday, with many choosing to stay home over fears of more violence.

“The Islamists declared war on the rest of the population yesterday. I'm very scared,” said resident Soha Abdelrahman.

Developments in Egypt hit world financial markets, with the Dow Jones Industrial Average looking past solid American employment data to register a 0.19 percent fall and New York crude hitting a 14-month peak on concerns the crisis could spread and disrupt supplies.

All eyes were on the military, after government daily Al-Ahram reported details of its roadmap for the future.

The plan provides for an interim administration, of up to one year, which would include the head of the supreme constitutional court and a senior army figure.