CAIRO (AP) — An Egyptian presidential spokesman on Monday dismissed an apparent threat by the military to both Egypt's president and opposition that it would step in if political fighting descends into chaos, as president's allies prepare for another mass rally in few days to counter June 30 opposition-led demonstrations.
The spokesman, Ihab Fahmy, told foreign reporters that the military's mission is guarding the borders and securing vital institutions, and that it has no intention to play any other role. "There is a president ruling the country in a democratic way, and (through) democratic elections. We can't imagine that the army would come back," Fahmy said. "The army has one role — protecting the borders and securing the strategic institutions. There is no political role for the army."
His remarks came a day after Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi gave the nation's Islamist rulers and their opponents a week to reach an understanding before planned June 30 opposition protests demanding resignation of President Mohammed Morsi. El-Sissi issued a toughly worded warning that the military will intervene to stop the nation from entering a "dark tunnel."
El-Sissi's statement indicated to Morsi's hard-line backers that the military will step in if protesters are attacked during their demonstrations. June 30 marks one year since Morsi took office. Opponents charge that Morsi is monopolizing power for his Muslim Brotherhood, excluding others, while failing to make progress toward solving the country's critical problems, like economic malaise, fuel shortages, electricity blackouts and increasing unemployment. They demand that he step down and hold early presidential elections.
Fahmy said that el-Sissi's message, like any other statements from the military, comes in coordination with the presidency. "These statements were intended to defuse tension," he said. "President Morsi is the supreme commander of the army, and anything that happens within the army is coordinated through him and with him."
In a statement Monday, the presidency said Morsi chaired a National Security Council meeting, attended by el-Sissi and top officials, stressing that all state institutions are "respecting and protecting the constitutional and legal legitimacy," a reference to the president.
Fahmy said Morsi has extended an open-ended invitation for dialogue with opposition. Morsi's supporters charge the opposition has shunned his offers to talk and now are turning to force to remove him, because they have been unable to compete at the ballot box.
While the presidency claims it is making efforts to ease tensions, allies of hard-line and ultraconservative Islamists like the former militant group Gamaa Islamiya announced Monday that they will organize another mass rally this Friday. There are indications that Islamists will hold an open-ended sit-in, raising fears of street clashes with Morsi's opponents near the president's palace, where the opposition demonstration is also scheduled a few days later.
Last Friday, some 100,000 Morsi supporters staged a rally as a show of strength.