(Photo: REUTERS/Khaled Abdullah)
Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi and the country's top general have declared that they are ready to die as protests continue raging across Egypt calling for the president to step down.
"I am prepared to sacrifice my blood for the sake of the security and stability of this homeland," Morsi said in a speech in the early hours of Wednesday, NBC News reported. The military has given the president until 5 p.m. local time (11 a.m. ET) on Wednesday to meet the demands of protesters – though many have said that nothing short of his resignation will calm tensions.
"The Commander of the Armed Forces said that it is an 'honor' for us to die rather than for the Egyptian people to be threatened or terrorized. We swear to God to sacrifice with our blood for Egypt and its people against any terrorist, extremist, or ignoramus ... Long live Egypt and its proud people," added Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in a Facebook post.
At least sixteen people were killed over the weekend as those unhappy with Morsi's rule, in particular the economic hardships Egypt has faced over the past year, stormed the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood in Cairo and clashed with government supporters across the capital.
The protests marked one year since he was elected to serve as Egypt's president, succeeding the ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, but his political ties to the Muslim Brotherhood have caused unrest, especially for the country's Coptic Christians.
Reuters noted that there are growing fears of civil war erupting in the African nation, with the Dustour (Constitution) Party led by former U.N. nuclear watchdog Mohamed ElBaradei, a leading opposition party, calling on Egypt's military to stop Morsi, who they say has "lost his mind."
"We ask the army to protect the souls of Egyptians after Mursi lost his mind and incited bloodshed of Egyptians," the Dustour party said.
At the same time, a hardline Islamist party tied to Morsi has said that efforts are being made to broker a "peaceful, constitutional transfer" of power and avoid violence and death, though the president has not yet declared that he is ready to give in to demands.
"We find ourselves faced with the necessity of convincing the president to accept a referendum on early presidential elections," said Tarek al-Zumar, of ex-armed group Gamaa Islamiya. "This is what we hope will be reached in the next few hours."