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Showdown Between Egypt's President And Army Counts Down


This is MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm David Greene.


And I'm Renee Montagne.

Events are fast-moving in Egypt this morning, where time may be running out for President Mohammed Morsi. The military has given him until this hour to make concessions to hundreds of thousands of demonstrators in the streets. Otherwise, the army promises to step in and push him out. There are widespread reports that the military has taken control of state television, and clashes between police and protestors continue. At least 23 people have died.

For the latest, we're joined now by NPR's Cairo bureau chief Leila Fadel. Good morning.

LEILA FADEL, BYLINE: Good morning.

MONTAGNE: And what are you seeing in the streets? Of course, it's afternoon there, now that this deadline is effectively upon us.

FADEL: Well, really, everybody is waiting. This is what everybody's calling the zero hour. The deadline is upon us. Everybody's waiting to see if the military will make a statement. They said they would impose a roadmap if Morsi was unable to come to a solution himself. And as we've seen, no solution has been made. The president is effectively refusing to step aside.

MONTAGNE: Remind us what the conditions of the deadline were, as set by the army.

FADEL: The military basically said that Morsi has to do something to placate the people, to placate the opposition to stop this polarization, and if he didn't, they would. They would impose a transitional roadmap. Some interpretations of that is that they may create a transitional counsel that would take over if they pushed the president aside. The president has said - as we saw in his speech yesterday - that he is a legitimate and an elected leader, and he will not step aside, despite the fact that millions of people are in the streets, so many people saying: You have failed us as president. You have broken your promises. Our lives are worse than when you were elected.

MONTAGNE: And have you heard anything from the military leaders who set this deadline? A lot of it's been online so far.

FADEL: Right. There have been statements - as we've mentioned before, is that there was a statement late last night, early this morning, basically, in Egypt that said that the military would stand with the people, sacrifice blood to protect them from what they call terrorists and fools. It's a Facebook page linked to the military here. But we've heard nothing official so far today. Really, we're just waiting. There was an apparent meeting between the minister of defense and Nobel laureate Mohamed elBaradei, a leading opposition figure, as well as the Sheikh al-Azhar of the eminent religious learning institute, and the pope. It's unclear what came out of that meeting, what happened in the that meeting, and we are just waiting for a statement.

MONTAGNE: Now, President Morsi made a defiant speech last night. That's one of the times at which he said he was, as you've said, not stepping aside. Protestors have gathered at the headquarters of the presidential guard, believing he's holed up there. What options does he have at this point?

FADEL: Well, at this point, in speaking to observers, really just looking at this from the outside, they're saying that Morsi either steps aside on his own, or will be forced aside by the military, just from watching the developments. But the president has given no indication that he's willing to leave the seat. He feels that he was legitimately elected. He won, and he should stay there, even though many people see this as ripping the country apart, interpreting his statements last night as a call for rallying and possible violence from his supporters.

MONTAGNE: Now, I know Egyptians are in the thick of it, both those who are supporting Morsi and those who are against him. Just ever so briefly, Leila: Are people expressing to you any shock about - that this is a revolution number two?

FADEL: Yes. I think - when you talk to people who are out there protesting against the president, there is a euphoria, a shock that this is actually working. And when you talk to them about the fact that the military may intervene - which is not really democratic. It is unconstitutional, technically. They say that the legitimacy has been lost for Morsi because of the people.

MONTAGNE: OK, Leila. Leila, thanks very much. NPR's Leila Fadel, joining us from Cairo.

FADEL: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.

Renee Montagne, one of the best-known names in public radio, is a special correspondent and host for NPR News.
Leila Fadel is a national correspondent for NPR based in Los Angeles, covering issues of culture, diversity, and race.
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