Rival rallies in Egypt mark Morsi's anniversary in power
Tens of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in rival rallies on Sunday, as the opposition stepped up pressure on Islamist President Mohammed Morsi to step down on his first anniversary in office, dpa reported.
Tensions between Morsi's supporters and his opponents have risen in the lead-up to the anniversary, with at least seven killed in clashes last week.
Thousands of Morsi's opponents Sunday packed Tahrir Square in central Cairo before marching to the presidential palace in Heliopolis, east of the capital, shouting "leave." "He has done nothing for the poor," said Abdel-Samad Abdel-Hamid, a peasant who said he had came from Qaliubuia, north of Cairo, to join the anti-Morsi rally in Tahrir. "He only cares about his group. He must go."
The opposition says Morsi, the country's first democratically elected president, is concerned only with tightening his Muslim Brotherhood group's grip on power and has failed to address Egypt's economic and social problems.
Morsi's allies charge the opposition of seeking to topple him to seize power.
Posters were hung in Tahrir, also lashing out at the United States, apparently for supporting Morsi.
Tahrir was the focal point of the uprising that forced president Hosny Mubarak to resign in 2011.
Protesters from other parts of Cairo headed en masse Sunday to the presidential palace in Heliopolis.
A series of opposition protests were also staged in other parts of Egypt, which is the Arab world's most populous country.
Army helicopters flew over several locations of protest rallies in what anti-Morsi opponents said were reassuring gestures from the military that it is on the side of the people.
Scores of policemen, meanwhile, joined an ant-Morsi protest in Giza, south of Cairo, in an apparent bid to reconcile with the public, who have long viewed security forces as an oppressive tool of the regime.
Sunday's rallies against Morsi were called by the Tamarod, or Rebellion, campaign, members of which announced that they have collected more than 22 million signatures from people who want Morsi ousted.
Tamarod activists said that the protesters would stage an open-ended sit-in outside the presidential palace until Morsi resigns.
Morsi's supporters have vowed he will complete his four-year term.
Morsi Sunday met with Prime Minister Hesham Qandil to review the security situation, a presidential spokesman said.
"The president also contacted ministers of the defence, the interior and health and discussed protecting demonstrators, the borders and the state institutions," added Morsi's spokesman Ihab Fahmi at a press conference.
He did not say where Morsi was staying.
The online edition of state-run newspaper al-Ahram said Morsi had moved to another presidential palace in Cairo.
"The president is doing his job as usual in al-Qouba palace," al-Ahram reported, quoting an unnamed official source. Backers of Morsi, meanwhile, continued their watch around a mosque in eastern Cairo. Dozens of young men with sticks, shields and helmets were marshalled in squadrons nearby, some forming a security cordon.
"Democracy is not really something you can do on a whim ... This president has been elected by 51 per cent of the society. That means 49 per cent didn't elect him. It is a fair deal. They just have to deal with it," said Gehad all-Haddad, the Brotherhood spokesman.
Speaking to dpa, al-Haddad said he hoped everything would remain quiet, but warned against any attempt to storm the presidential palace.
"The walls of the presidential palace are indeed a red line," he said.
"Our committees and our protests will not move as long as the scene remains peaceful. But if there is an attempt to stage a coup d'etat on the presidential palace, and the military and the police are not dealing with it at the expected level ... the people of Egypt will rise and protect their legitimacy."
Two Brotherhood offices were torched Sunday in the Delta provinces of Sharqia and Dakhaliya, reported local media, the latest in a series of attacks on the group's buildings.
The Ministry of Interior has seized many guns over the past few days. Weapons have spread in Egypt over the past two years, as people complained of a security vacuum and higher crime rates.