Egypt's Morsi blasts 'enemies' as clashes leave two dead, over 200 injured

Egypt's Morsi blasts 'enemies' as clashes leave two dead, over 200 injured

CAIRO - Reuters
Egypts Morsi blasts enemies as clashes leave two dead, over 200 injured

Egyptian man chants slogans against President Mohammed Morsi during a demonstration in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, June 26. AP photo

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi blamed 'enemies of Egypt' for paralysing its new democracy in a speech on June 26 that criticised street protests ahead of mass rallies against Islamist rule this weekend.

It was a televised address that admitted errors and offered reform but was otherwise uncompromising in its denunciation of those he blamed - some of them by name. Earlier, two people were killed and scores wounded in the latest factional street clashes that many fear may presage a violent showdown this weekend.

After an hour, he had offered nothing that would persuade his opponents to call off mass demonstrations they have called to demand Morsi's resignation and new elections. The army has warned it may step in if politicians do not reconcile.

Interrupted by occasional cheers from Islamist supporters, Mursi told an audience that also included generals and officials that many of the difficulties of his first year in office were due to the continued influence of corrupt figures who had been appointed before the 2011 revolution by Hosni Mubarak.

"I took responsibility for a country mired in corruption and was faced with a war to make me fail," he said, naming some senior officials, including the man he beat in last year's presidential run-off, as well as neighbourhood "thugs".

Morsi acknowledged the hardships many of the young who saw hope in the revolution have had in an economy mired in crisis and offered them reforms and, in time, a higher minimum wage.

"Political polarization 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 said. "The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience."

"I stand before you as an Egyptian citizen, not as the holder of an office, who is fearful for his country," he said before saying he would review his first year in office, which began on June 30 - the date protesters have chosen to rally.

"Today, I president an audit of my first year, with full transparency, along with a road map. Some things were achieved and others not," Mursi said, without elaborating.  "I have made mistakes on a number of issues." 
Violent clashes, army gives warning

Hours before he spoke, two people were killed and more than 200 were treated for injuries in the city of Mansoura, north of Cairo, when Islamist supporters clashed with their opponents - the latest street fighting over the past few days that many fear may presage a massive showdown in the streets this weekend. Witnesses heard gunfire and state television showed a man in hospital with birdshot wounds.

The army has warned politicians it could effectively take charge again if they fail to reconcile. 

Fears of a violent stand-off in the streets between Morsi's supporters and a broad coalition of the disaffected have led people to stock up on food. Long lines of cars outside fuel stations have snarled roads in Cairo and other cities.

Morsi, who marks his first year in office on Sunday. The army chief issued a warning on Sunday, urging compromise while also defending the legitimacy of Morsi's election. 

One senior Western diplomat in Cairo said the army might try to impose a solution, especially if the political deadlock turns violent: "The margin for a political solution is definitely very narrow," he said. "If (violence) crosses a certain threshold, the role of the army might become by default more proactive."

Islamists, oppressed for decades, fear a return of military rule and hardliners warn of a fight if the generals intervene. They accuse Mubarak-era institutions, including courts, state media, police and civil service, of working to undermine Morsi.

Morsi says a petition demanding he quit - which liberal organisers say has 15 million signatures - is undemocratic. In that, he has support from Islamists, who have staged shows of strength in recent days and plan a major Cairo rally on Firday June 28. Nationwide opposition rallies are due to start on Sunday but could begin earlier.