The Egyptian military's ultimatum for President Mohamed Morsi to agree to share power or make way for an army-imposed solution expired at 5:30 pm Wednesday.
Hundreds of thousands of people gathered in Cairo's Tahrir Square to await the army's announcement. The demonstrators were calling for Morsi's resignation.
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Shortly before the deadline expired, Morsi again stated he has no intention to step down. In a statement, the Egyptian president warned that his electoral legitimacy is the only safeguard against violence and instability. He said it was a mistake to "take sides."
Earlier,Egyptian liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei met army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi. The heads of state Islamic institute, Al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Coptic Church also joined the meeting, a government source said. Political sources said two members of the "Tamarod - Rebel!" youth group that is leading the anti-Morsi protests also attended, as did members of the hardline Muslim fundamentalist Nour Party.
Under a plan leaked to state media, the military would install a new interim leadership, the Islamist-backed constitution suspended and the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved.
Even as the clock ticked down toward the military's deadline, Morsi has remained defiant. In a speech late Tuesday night, he vowed not to step down and pledged to defend his legitimacy with his life in the face of the massive street protests.
Morsi's televised speech (Video: Reuters)
Al-Azhar's Grand Sheikh, Ahmed al-Tayeb, endorsed the army's position, calling on political leaders to heed anti-government protesters. Pope Tawadros, spiritual leader of some 10% of Egypt's 84 million people, tweeted his blessing for the anti-Morsi revolt on Tuesday.
ElBaradei was chosen to represent the opposition National Salvation Front coalition and youth groups leading anti-Morsi street protests to negotiate with the army on their behalf.
Tahrir Square before ultimatum expires (Photo: Reuters)
"In the meeting, ElBaradei will urge the armed forces to intervene to stop the bloodshed," one opposition source said.
A military source denied the meeting was taking place.
Staffers at Egypt's state TV said in the afternoon that military officers are present in the newsroom at the influential broadcaster, monitoring its output, shortly ahead of the expiration of the army's deadline to the Islamist president.
The staffers say the officers of the military information department were checking content Wednesday but not interfering.
The military also beefed up the presence of troops inside the building, the staffers said, though they were not visible outside. Even before the crisis, a small army contingent usually guards the state TV headquarters.
The military appears to be tightening its control over sensitive institutions before the expiration of military ultimatum.
More than 20 people have died and hundreds have been injured in clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents since the eruption of mass protests on June 30.
Reuters, AP contributed to the report
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