Rival demonstrations start in Egypt

Supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi have begun rival demonstrations on the streets of Cairo. Several thousand supporters of the president rallied outside the main mosque in the Nasr district, two days before the anniversary of his inauguration.

Opponents are also reported to have gathered in several parts of Cairo.

Security is tight in the increasingly polarised nation, with troops deployed in the capital and elsewhere.

One person died and a number of others were injured in clashes in northern Egypt late on Thursday.

President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters are holding “open-ended” rallies – two days ahead of what the opposition bills as big protests on Sunday calling for the president to resign.

The Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies began by massing outside Nasr City’s Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque on Friday.

They are stressing what they see as Mr Morsi’s “legitimacy”, rejecting the opposition’s demand for him to resign.

Mr Morsi said divisions threatened to “paralyse” Egypt, in a speech on Wednesday to mark a year in office.

Mr Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt’s first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair.

His first year as president has been marred by constant political unrest and a sinking economy.

The president also used his televised address to warn the media not to abuse free speech.

Within hours ripples from the speech could be felt across Egyptian media.

A talk show on the al-Fareen TV channel ended abruptly on Thursday night when the presenter learned he was to be arrested. Host and owner Tawfiq Okasha is accused of spreading false information, and the channel has ceased broadcasting.

Another prominent presenter resigned on air on state-run television in protest at what he called government interference in the editorial content of his programme.

‘Back on track’

Some Morsi opponents have already been gathering in Tahrir Square, ahead of Sunday’s planned march to the presidential palace.

The main opposition coalition on Thursday rejected President Morsi’s offer for dialogue.

In a statement, the National Salvation Front said it “remained determined to call for an early presidential election”.

“We are confident the Egyptian people will come out in their millions to hold peaceful demonstrations on all of Egypt’s squares and streets to realise their aspirations and to put the 25 January revolution back on track,” it added.

The opposition was referring to the popular uprising in January 2011 which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Hours before Friday’s rallies, one person was killed in clashes at the headquarters of the Freedom and Justice Party, the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, in the Nile Delta province of Sharqiya, reports say.

The Muslim Brotherhood blamed opposition activists for the violence.

‘Enemies of Egypt’

In his televised speech, President Morsi defended his performance, admitting errors and promising immediate and radical reforms to address them.

“I was right in some cases, and wrong in other cases,” he said. “I have discovered after a year in charge that for the revolution to achieve its goals, it needs radical measures.”

He apologised for the fuel shortages that have caused long lines at petrol stations and angered many Egyptians, and also for failing to involve the nation’s youth enough.

But despite Mr Morsi’s initial conciliatory tone, the speech swiftly moved into a condemnation of those he blamed for Egypt’s problems, the BBC’s Aleem Maqbool in Cairo reports.

“I took responsibility for a country mired in corruption and was faced with a war to make me fail,” he said, naming several officials he believed wanted to “turn the clock back” to the Mubarak era, including politicians, judges and journalists.

“Political polarisation and conflict has reached a stage that threatens our nascent democratic experience and threatens to put the whole nation in a state of paralysis and chaos,” he warned.

“The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience.”

Mr Morsi called on opposition figures to “enter elections if you want to change the government” and criticised them for refusing to take part in a national dialogue.

The head of the army earlier warned it would not allow Egypt to slip into “uncontrollable conflict”.

 Source: BBC

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