CAIRO -- In an ominous warning suggesting it may return to power, the Egyptian military said Monday that it would intervene in the next two days if President Mohamed Morsi and the opposition do not resolve the political crisis threatening the country’s stability and economy.
The military statement was a clear signal to Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood party that the army is losing patience after months of unrest and economic turmoil. Such a move could threaten Egypt’s young democracy and possibly lead to a return to martial law two years after the popular uprising that ousted the police state of Hosni Mubarak.
"The armed forces is warning that if the demands of the people are not fulfilled. . .(it) will announce a future road map and procedures that it will supervise,” said the statement read on national television by Gen. Abdel Fattah Sisi, defense minister and chief of the armed forces.
The statement added that national security was in danger and that "wasting more time will only achieve more division and conflict.”
Sisi’s words rang with exasperation toward Morsi and the opposition: "The armed forces repeats the invitation to fulfill the demands of the people and gives everyone 48 hours as a last chance to begin bearing the burdens of this historic circumstance.”
The military’s rule of the nation from 2011 until Morsi’s inauguration one year ago was marked by human rights violations that included torture and mass arrests. But Morsi’s failure to stem the country’s many ills, including rising crime and deep political divisions, has in recent weeks led to louder calls for a coup.
The statement followed massive anti-Morsi protests on Sunday and a threat by a key opposition group, known as Rebel, to start a nationwide campaign of civil disobedience if Morsi refuses to resign to make way for early elections. Morsi is in a standoff with opposition forces after 16 people died and nearly 800 were injured in clashes between Islamists and anti-government protesters.
The protests were the largest since the overthrow of Mubarak.
“There is no way to accept any half-measures,” said Rebel, which claims to have collected 22 million signatures on petitions to unseat Morsi. "There is no alternative other than the peaceful end of power of the Muslim Brotherhood and its representative, Mohamed Morsi."
The group said it will instigate “complete civil disobedience” if Morsi doesn’t resign by 5 p.m. Tuesday. Rebel called on “state institutions, including the army, police and judiciary, to clearly side with the popular will.”
The military statement said the gridlock between Morsi and the opposition is what “led the people to go out [in protest], in such determination and insistence and with their own free will.”