Egyptian President Mursi vows to defend ‘legitimacy’ with his life

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Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi insisted on his ‘constitutional legitimacy” during a televised address on Tuesday and called on the army to withdraw its ultimatum to intervene if the political parties do not resolve differences.

The president said he stood ready to “give my life” to defend constitutional legitimacy, echoing comments by a senior leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who urged supporters to be ready to sacrifice their lives to prevent a coup.

In the speech, which continued after more than 40 minutes, he admitted his first year in office had been difficult and he faced challenges from ‘corrupt remnants” of the old regime.

In a response to a military ultimatum to share power with his opponents, he said he had tried such dialogue before and had been unsuccessful. But he insisted he would continue fulfilling the duties to which he had been democratically elected.

‘The people chose me in free and fair elections,” Mursi said, adding that he would “continue to shoulder his responsibilities” as Egypt struggles with the legacy of decades of authoritarian rule.

The president said that respect for the constitutional order was the “only guarantee against further bloodshed,” in a veiled attack against an ultimatum issued by the army for him to strike a deal with his opponents or have one imposed.

The president renewed his appeal to the opposition to join a dialogue, an appeal it has already repeatedly rejected as a sham.

While rejecting the army’s ultimatum to intervene if political forces fail to reach a resolution, the Islamist president urged respect for the armed forces, saying the army was the biggest asset of the Egyptian people.

The campaign behind protests that saw millions of Egyptians calling for Mursi to step down accused him of “threatening his own people.”

“This is a president threatening his own people,” said Mohammad Abdelaziz, a leader of the Tamarod campaign.

“We don’t consider him the president of Egypt,” Abdelaziz told an Egyptian television channel.

An Egyptian opposition spokesman described Mursi’s speech on as a declaration of civil war because he ignored opposition demands for him to resign, which have been backed by mass rallies.

Dismissing Mursi’s repeated offers of dialogue, Khaled Dawoud, the spokesman for the National Salvation Front, said: “This is an open call for civil war ... The president continues to deny the demands of the Egyptian people that he resign.”

Clashes near a pro-Mursi rally at Cairo University killed three and wounded 90 others, the health ministry said, according to Reuters.

Witnesses heard shotgun and rifle fire and teargas enveloped the area. Television pictures showed ambulances taking away casualties, small fires burning and hundreds of men, many with the beards typical of Mursi’s Islamist supporters, some of them weeping and others chanting slogans.

(With Reuters and AFP)

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