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Egypt army chief: ‘Mursi was urged to hold referendum twice’

Published: Updated:

Egypt’s military leadership had urged ousted President Mohammad Mursi “twice” to hold a referendum on whether he should stay in power to avoid political turmoil, the country’s Army Chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Sunday.

“The military forces have worked to give an opportunity for politicians to be responsible and to agree and understand each other in order for the country not to fall in[to] such a political polarization,” Egypt TV reported Sisi as saying when addressing a group of army officers.

After the toppling of Mursi, the country has witnessed deadly clashes between supporters and opponents of the former president, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Mursi’s supporters continue to rally to show their loyalty for the leader, who they describe as “a legitimate” president ousted through a “military coup.”

Sisi, who is also the defense minister, meanwhile, said he requested Mursi to hold the referendum twice but the Islamist leader rejected the proposition.

“I did not hesitate when I gave my sincere advice to Mursi for this whole entire year,” he said. “The army leaders expressed their desire to see that the presidency itself [had] to lead and hold a referendum for Egyptians to decide and declare their say.”

Mursi angered the opposition when in November he issued decrees granting himself sweeping powers. The opposition later mobilized in what became known as the National Salvation Front and the Tamarod (rebel) campaign, gathering 22 million signatures from Egyptians who wished to see the Islamist leader cede power.