07/03/2013, 00.00
EGYPT
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Backed by al-Azhar and Coptic Church, Armed Forces chief announces new presidential election

After suspending the constitution imposed by the Muslim Brotherhood, General Al-Sisi sets Egypt on a course for new elections. When the announcement is made, celebrations break out in Tahrir Square. The grand sheikh of Al Azhar, Coptic Patriarch Tawadros and opposition leader Mohamed El Baradei endorse the move. Meanwhile, Mohamed Morsi's fate is unknown.

Cairo (AsiaNews) - In a televised address, the Commander of the Egyptian Armed Forces General Abdul Fattah al-Sisi suspended the Egyptian constitution and laid out plans for fresh presidential and parliamentary elections. In making his statement, General al-Sisi was flanked by the top chiefs of the Armed Forces and the main Muslim and Coptic Christian religious leaders.

Al-Sisi, who had met representatives of the country's main religions as well as top opposition leaders earlier in the afternoon, said that until the new elections were held, the head of the Constitutional Court would act as interim president.

This effectively signals the ouster of Mohamed Morsi as president of Egypt. He had been elected under the banner of the Muslim Brotherhood-backed party last year. It is still unclear though where he is at present. Some unconfirmed reports say that he is under house arrest, banned from leaving the country.

In his announcement, General Al-Sisi criticised Morsi's statements. Despite the pressure of millions of protesters who have occupied Egypt's streets for four days, the ousted president refused to resign yesterday.

One of the accusations levelled at him was that of favouring the Muslim Brotherhood and an Islamist reorientation of Egyptian society, marginalising the opposition and other religious and social groups.

The commander of the Armed Forces stressed that it was time for Egypt to build a nation in which everyone can contribute irrespective of their religion or group belongs.

Al-Sisi called for a government of technocrats and experts from various social, cultural and religious groups to rewrite the constitution so that it would better reflect Egypt's pluralism.

At the end of his speech, jubilation broke out in an overflowing Tahrir Square, as people shouted their joy, applauded, set off fireworks, and turned on laser beams.

Immediately after the General al-Sisi's televised speed, Al Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayeb spoke, followed by Coptic Patriarch Tawadros and Mohamed El Baradei, the latter representing the anti-Morsi opposition (National Salvation Front). All three stressed the need for national unity and reconciliation.

Shortly after al-Sisi's address, Morsi issued a statement accusing the army of carrying out a coup d'état.

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