Anticipation Builds In Egypt Ahead Of Military's Deadline

Protestors in Egypt postponed their deadline by which they wanted Islamist President Mohamed Morsi to resign in favor of the Egyptian army's ultimatum. The Egyptian president's supporters, meanwhile, took to the streets in bigger numbers while more members of his staff quit.

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AUDIE CORNISH, HOST:

From NPR News, this is ALL THINGS CONSIDERED. I'm Audie Cornish.

ROBERT SIEGEL, HOST:

I'm Robert Siegel. And we begin this hour in Egypt where protesters are again in the streets. Some key government ministers and aides have resigned, and a deadline is fast approaching. The military has warned that it will intervene in the crisis if the country's Islamist president does not make peace with his opponents by tomorrow at 5 p.m. local time.

But tonight in a televised address, President Mohamed Morsi said that he was democratically elected and will not step down. Tension is building in Egypt's capital, where violence today has left at least three people dead and dozens wounded. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports.

(SOUNDBITE OF HELICOPTERS)

SORAYA SARHADDI NELSON, BYLINE: Egyptian army helicopters hovered over Cairo, a reminder of what may be President Mohamed Morsi's forced removal from office tomorrow. The coalition of youth and opposition groups that have organized mass protests against the president decided to let the military take the lead and gave out their own deadline for when they wanted the president to step down.

They also agreed to have Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei represent them in any negotiations on the country's political future. Morsi, who is Egypt's first freely elected president, took to the airways and said he would give up his life before he gives up his constitutional legitimacy. He said he has no other option and that he will continue to shoulder the responsibilities of his office. He added that it takes time to build a democracy.

The president's supporters, meanwhile, are turning out in larger numbers, fueling fears that they won't capitulate without a fight. Many of them are carrying sticks and shields.

UNIDENTIFIED GROUP: (Chanting in foreign language)

NELSON: At Cairo University, a pro-Morsi crowd praised God and chanted slogans against the military's ultimatum. One of the men at the rally was Mahmoud Abdel-Razeq(ph).

MAHMOUD ABDEL-RAZEQ: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The 30-year-old physician says he will continue to protest even if Morsi chooses to leave. He says it's up to people like him to protect Egypt's young democracy. He adds: We stood in long lines to vote for him, and his leaving now reminds me of when American forces took over Iraq.

(SOUNDBITE OF FIREWORKS)

(SOUNDBITE OF HONKING)

NELSON: At Tahrir Square, the mood was more festive as anti-Morsi protesters hunkered down for what they hope will be the last night of his presidency. If Morsi and his opponents don't reach an agreement by 5 p.m. Cairo time tomorrow, the military said in its televised statement that it will unveil a road map that will determine Egypt's future.

UNIDENTIFIED MAN: (Foreign language spoken)

NELSON: The military didn't elaborate, but a retired army general with close ties to the military told NPR that the generals will suspend the Islamist-drafted constitution, move up presidential elections and appoint a committee representing protesters, opposition groups and the military to run the country for the time being. Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson, NPR News, Cairo.

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