Mohammed Morsi
Mohammed MorsiAFP photo

Egypt’s presidency on Tuesday rejected an army ultimatum threatening to intervene if Islamist President Mohammed Morsi does not meet the demands of millions of protesters.

Instead, the presidency said army declaration had not been cleared by the presidency and could cause confusion, AFP news agency reported.

The presidency also denounced any declaration that would “deepen division” and “threaten the social peace”.

The army statement, which was read out in a televised address on Monday, gave Morsi 48 hours to comply with its call.

“If the demands of the people are not met in this period... (the armed forces) will announce a future roadmap and measures to oversee its implementation,” the military said.

Al Arabiya reported that the statement was welcomed by cheers and celebrations from Morsi’s opponents, who are still camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

Tamarod, the grassroots campaign behind Sunday’s massive protests against Morsi, said that the statement by the armed forces meant that the military had “sided with the people”.

It “will mean early presidential elections”, Tamarod’s spokesman Mahmud Badr told reporters, according to AFP.

For its part, the presidential statement said that Morsi was consulting “with all national forces to secure the path of democratic change and the protection of the popular will.”

“The civil democratic Egyptian state is one of the most important achievements of the January 25 revolution,” said the presidency, referring to the 2011 uprising that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak. “Egypt will absolutely not permit any step backward whatever the circumstances,” it added.

But Morsi’s rejection of the army ultimatum “has raised the stakes in the country’s political crisis,” Al Arabiya noted. Sixteen people were killed in protests on Sunday, including eight in clashes between supporters and opponents of the president outside the Cairo headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood.