Region | Egypt

‘Mursi wanted to announce state of emergency’

Insider reveals disagreements in a private meeting between Mursi and security officials on upcoming protests

  • By Ayman Sharaf, Special to Gulf News
  • Published: 18:29 June 25, 2013
  • Gulf News

  • Image Credit: Reuters
  • Mohammad Mursi

Cairo: Egyptian president Mohammad Mursi suggested in a private meeting with security officials the announcing of a state of emergency if security matters got out of hand during planned opposition protests next week, Gulf News has learned.

The defence and interior ministers left a high profile meeting with Mursi regarding security plans on Wednesday in frustration and disappointment, turning down a suggestion by the president to declare a state of emergency if violence got out of control, government sources told Gulf News.

“The meeting ended with no result and no clear plan based on a presidential stance,” the sources said.

Minister of Defence Abdul Fatah Al Sisi, Minister of Interior Mohammad Ebrahim and Head of General Intelligence Agency Mohammad Raafat Shehata attended the meeting to discuss the security situation prior to the impending mass demonstrations on June 30.

A statement released by the presidency on the meeting underlined its view on the upcoming protests: “[President Mursi] stressed the importance of [both] dealing in a civil way with citizens who express their opinion peacefully, and responding to any violations of law or threats to state institutions.”

The statement had nothing to say about the “frustration” felt by the security officials regarding the president’s reaction on their plans to deal with the protests, the sources said.

Security reports reviewed by the intelligence chief Shehata affirmed that a wave of clashes is inevitably coming soon.

It would take no less than a month and no more than three months, according to their assessment.

The reports detailed how the situation could deteriorate, as well as the movement of some foreign dangerous elements inside the country, and revealed places where weapons are hidden.

Ebrahim emphasised that security leaders in his ministry refuse to protect the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood.

Officers who agreed to be on the streets during the protests are demanding legal protection and guarantee that they would not be prosecuted if they were obliged to open fire during the expected riot acts.

The interior minister told the president that it would be very difficult to convince the police apparatus – both leadership and rank and file – to take sides in the current political battle, because the police had yet to recover from the intense public criticism they were subject to in the wake of the 2011 uprising.

“It would be ‘quite an achievement’ if I managed to convince police officers – especially the younger ones – not to take part in the planned demonstrations,” Interior Minister said.

Al Sisi reaffirmed the military’s desire to remain outside the current political debate between the president and his supporters on the one hand and the opposition on the other.

He expressed worry about smuggling operations of heavy weapons which the Border Guards are cracking down recently. But he assured that military units were ready to be deployed in all necessary locations.

“We will not allow our country to dissolve into civil war or sectarian sedition. We secure our eastern borders strongly.” Al Sisi said.

The president kept silent throughout and observed the attendants while listening intently to their remarks.

Finally, he made a proposal to both ministers: preparing security forces for a possible declaration of a state of emergency should planned 30 June anti-government demonstrations turn violent.

The two, defence and interior ministers, turned down the proposal.

They advised the president that declaring the state of emergency in this period will be in vain.

Al Sisi reiterated the armed forces’ role as laid down by the constitution, along with the army’s apprehension about being dragged into a confused political situation that could subject the armed forces to the kind of “unkind” criticism seen during Egypt’s post-revolution period of military rule.

“The President didn’t comment. The meeting was ended with no result and no clear plan based on a presidential stance,” according to the sources.

This reaction, observers say, pushed Al Sisi to call on political parties on Sunday to find a formula of understanding and genuine reconciliation before June 30.

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