Egypt’ s powerful military said on Saturday it “supports dialogue” to resolve the political crisis dividing the nation, in its first statement since street protests against President Mohamed Mursi erupted more than two weeks ago.
In a statement read on state radio and television, the military spokesman made no mention of President Mursi, but said a solution to the political crisis should not contradict “legitimacy and the rules of democracy.”
“The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens,” said the statement, from the spokesman of the armed forces.
“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 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 statement said Egyptians were capable of expressing their views peacefully “far from all displays of violence”.
The announcement comes as Mursi begins a meeting with political figures on Saturday at the presidential palace, reported Al Arabiya.
Earlier on Thursday, the Egyptian president proposed a dialogue to defuse bloody protests over sweeping powers he assumed to speed through a new constitution.
The opposition was still staging protests around Mursi’s official palace, where clashes with Mursi’s Islamist supporters killed seven people and wounded 350 earlier this week.
Mursi grants army more power
Meanwhile, the state-owned Al Ahram newspaper announced on Saturday that the Egyptian president will soon authorize the armed forces to help police keep order.
The daily said the cabinet had approved a legal measure under which the armed forces would help “maintain security and protect vital state institutions” and would be given powers of arrest, but did not say when it would be issued.
Egypt’ s military was the power behind all previous presidents and an army council temporarily took over after a popular revolt toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.
However, Mursi pushed the generals aside in August, two months after he was elected and they have shown no appetite to intervene in the latest crisis in the most populous Arab nation.