Meanwhile, the Obama administration told lawmakers Thursday that it will not declare Egypt's government overthrow a coup, US officials said, allowing the United States to continue providing $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to the Arab world's most populous country.
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Egypt's army has summoned Egyptians into the streets on Friday in an intended turning point in its confrontation with followers of Morsi, the elected leader the generals removed on July 3.
Clashes in Cairo (Photo: EPA)
An army official said the military had set Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood an ultimatum, giving it until Saturday to sign up to a plan for political reconciliation which it has so far spurned.
The Muslim Brotherhood, which has maintained a street vigil for a month with thousands of supporters demanding Morsi's reinstatement, has called its own crowds out for counter-demonstrations across Egypt in a "day to remove the coup".
'Day to remove coup' (Photo: AFP)
Both sides have dramatically escalated rhetoric before Friday's demonstrations. The Brotherhood accused the army of pushing the nation towards civil war and committing a crime worse than destroying Islam's holiest site.
In a Facebook post, the army said it will not "turn its guns against its people, but it will turn them against black violence and terrorism which has no religion or nation".
A military official said the army had given the Brotherhood 48 hours from Thursday afternoon to join the political process. He did not say what would happen if it refuses.
Anti-Morsi protest (Photo: MCT)
Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has called on Egyptians to take to the streets and give him a "mandate" to act against the violence that has convulsed Egypt since he shunted its first freely elected president from power.
Meanwhile, Sheikh Youssef al-Qaradawi, an influential Egyptian cleric based in Qatar, issued a religious edict broadcast on Al Jazeera television urging soldiers to disobey orders to kill.
The main anti-Morsi youth protest group, which has backed the army, said it would go to the streets to "cleanse Egypt".
The West is increasingly alarmed at the course taken by Egypt, a strategic hinge between the Middle East and North Africa, since protests in 2011 brought down Mubarak and ended decades of autocratic rule in the most populous Arab state.
Signaling its displeasure, Washington has delayed the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Cairo. On Thursday, the White House urged the army to exercise "maximum restraint and caution".
Sisi's coup? (Photo: Gettyimages)However, the Obama administration told lawmakers Thursday that it will not declare Egypt's government overthrow a coup, allowing the US to continue providing $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to the Arab world's most populous country.
William Burns, the State Department's No. 2 official, held a closed-doors meeting with House members and was to brief senators later Thursday in the US first act regarding Egypt since Morsi's fall.
The administration has been forced into difficult contortions to justify not declaring a coup d'etat, which would prompt the automatic suspension of American assistance programs under US law. Washington fears that halting such funding could imperil programs that help to secure Israel's border and fight weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, among other things seen as critical to US national security.
It's unclear what specific arguments it presented Thursday, but officials said Burns explained how the administration hasn't declared the power change a coup and doesn't plan to in future as Egypt moves to restore civilian governance and hold new democratic elections. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorized to discuss the private meetings.
Many from both parties in Congress sympathize with the administration's view and the need to back a military that has safeguarded Egypt's peace with Israel for three decades.
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