Obama Urges Egyptian Military to Quickly Return to Democratic Government

WATCH: In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of elected Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

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The head of Egypt's armed forces issued a declaration on Wednesday suspending the constitution and appointing the head of the constitutional court as interim head of state.

In a televised broadcast, flanked by military leaders, religious authorities and political figures, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi effectively declared the removal of elected Islamist President Mohamed Morsi.

Sisi called for presidential and parliamentary elections, a panel to review the constitution and a national reconciliation committee that would include youth movements. He said the roadmap had been agreed by a range of political groups.

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3:18 A.M. Desposed President Morsi is being held by the military authorities, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman and a security official said say.

Ahmed Aref, the Brotherhood spokesman, says both Morsi and Essam El-Haddad, a senior aide, are being held but he doesn't know where. A security official says they are being held at a military intelligence facility.

3:15 A.M. The European Union calls for a rapid return to democracy in Egypt.

2:45 A.M. Egyptian security forces arrest the head of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party and another of the movement's top leaders.

Egypt's Al-Ahram newspaper reports that arrest warrants have been issued for 300 Brotherhood members.

2:15 A.M. U.S. President Barack Obama expresses deep concern about Egypt's removal of President Mohammed Morsi on Wednesday and calls for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.

In a written statement commenting on dramatic events unfolding in Cairo, Obama said he had directed relevant U.S. agencies to review the implications of the military intervention to determine whether it would have any impact on U.S. aid.

He urged the Egyptian military to avoid any arbitrary arrests of Morsi and his supporters.

"During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts," he said.

2:05 A.M. Key U.S. Democrat, Senator Patrick Leahy , says U.S. law mandates cutting off aid when elected government is deposed by coup. Leahy adds that U.S. Congress will review aid to Egypt as it waits for clearer picture on events.

U.S. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Martin Dempsey says "there will be consequences" if Egyptian military intervention is "badly handled," CNN reports.

1:45 A.M. The head of Egypt's supreme constitutional court, Adli Mansour, will be sworn in as interim head of state on Thursday.

1:16 A.M. Saudi King Abdullah sends a message of congratulations to the head of the Egyptian Constitutional Court, Adli Mansour, for being appointed interim head of state after the armed forces overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, the Saudi state news agency SPA reported.

Gulf Arab states welcomed the Egyptian army's ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Mursi in a country once seen by Gulf Arabs as an instrumental ally against rival power Iran.

12:45 A.M. Security forces raid the Cairo offices of Al Jazeera's Egyptian television channel and arrest at least five staff members.

The Egyptian arm of the Qatari-owned media company began broadcasting after the 2011 uprising that topped President Hosni Mubarak and has been accused by critics of being sympathetic to Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

23:52 P.M. A recorded audio message from Morsi is being recorded to his supporters, Al-Jazeera reports. In the message, Morsi rejects the army's statement. "I am the only legitimate president in Egypt," he reportedly said.

Morsi opponents celebrate in Tahrir Square.
Policemen walk with protesters.
A vendor sells flags and anti-Morsi signs during protest.
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Morsi opponents celebrate in Tahrir Square.Credit: AP
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Policemen walk with protesters.Credit: AP
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A vendor sells flags and anti-Morsi signs during protest.Credit: Reuters
Protests in Tahrir Square

23:30 P.M. Syrian President Bashar Assad says upheaval in Egypt was a defeat for political Islam. "Whoever brings religion to use in politics or in favor of one group at the expense of another will fall anywhere in the world," Assad was quoted as telling the official Thawra newspaper.

23:08 P.M. Islamist Morsi supporters who have gathered in a Cairo suburb reacted angrily to the army's announcement that it had suspended the constitution and appointed a new, interim head of state. Denouncing military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, some shouted: "Sisi is void! Islam is coming! We will not leave!"

22:52 P.M. Egyptian liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei says the Arab Spring revolution of 2011 had been relaunched by the announcement of an army-sponsored roadmap which removed President Morsi. He added that the roadmap met demands for early presidential demands as called for by the liberal coalition.

22:50 P.M. The Facebook page of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi quoted him on Wednesday as saying he rejected measures announced by the army as a "military coup." It is unclear whether Morsi has access to his own Facebook page or if the statement was posted by an aide.

22:33 P.M.: Haaretz's Correspondant in Cairo reports: 'Fireworks now fill the sky, but earlier, as darkness was approaching, Tahrir Squares was filled with tense rumors, telling of a planned army siege. The massive crowds feared an imminenet end to the party. The hours that passed between the ultimatum's expiration and the release of the army's statement were rife with fears, apparently stoked by the increasingly felt presences of troops in Cairo's streets and bridges.'

'A short description of Cairo's geography: Both Tahrir Square and the President's Palace in Heliopolis are located on the east bank of the Nile. The pro-Morsi crowds are convened near the University of Cairo, west of the river in Nasser City neighbourhood. The distance between these places is a ten-minute drive. The army, keen on keeping the sides apart, is maintaining a heavy presence on the bridges that separate them.'

'Journalists are not the only foreigners who came to Tahrir this evening. But like them, tourists and other foreigners are treated with much warmth by the local crowds. When someone says he is American, the usual response is 'Obama is great.' Ashraf, a 35-year-old protester explains: "Obama is with the people. He listens to our demands and has pressured Morsi." At night, in my hotel room, I was listening to Fox News. Their two commentators were saying Obama is missing a rare chance to support the Egyptian people by throwing the Muslim Brotherhood out of power. In Tahrir, it seems, the opinion is different. '

22:16 P.M.: Egyptian Armed Forces Commander in Chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi announces on television that the head of the country's Supreme Constitutional Court will act as president with a national unity government pending early elections.

21:55 P.M.: The Egyptian army has told Mohammed Morsi that he was no longer the head of state, Egypt's state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reports, quoting a presidential source.

21:24 P.M. The meeting between Egypt's army chief and political, religious figures is over, and a statement will be issued shortly, the Army's official Facebook page stated.

21:18 P.M.: An army-backed plan for a new Egyptian political transition includes a short period of interim rule to be followed by presidential and parliamentary elections, the state news agency reported on Wednesday. It gave no further details, Reuters reported.

21:09 P.M.: Egypt political roadmap to be announced by Sheikh Al-Azhar, the head of the Coptic Church, and opposition leader ElBaradei.

20:45 P.M.: Army troops backed by armor and including commandos have deployed across much of the Egyptian capital, surrounding protests by the president's supporters, and at key facilities and major intersections.

Associated Press reporters in various part of Cairo say the troops, backed by armored personnel carriers and in full combat gear, have deployed on strategic bridges and near protest sites by supporters of embattled President Morsi.

8:15 P.M.: Haaretz's correspondent in Cairo desribes the atmosphere in Tahrir square as 'electrifying, joyous.'

'Whenever an army helicopter passes overhead, the crowds clap their hands and jump with glee. The word 'Inkalab,' which means 'Revolution,' is thrown about without hesitation. Any reporter carrying a camera is surrounded by crowds vying to be recorded vilifying Morsi. Here, as opposed to Israel, not everyone has a smartphone- and groups waiting to hear updates form around the owners of these devices. When the mayor of Giza announced his resignation, the entire square roared with happiness. The army's takeover of the state TV building, in contrast, was received with concerned looks. No one was expecting that move.'

'One young man asked me to update him about happenings at the Presidential Palace. He was undecided - which was the most appropriate place to located at upon this historic evening. Wherever he would be, he said, there would be singing and dancing, all night long - but the real question was, what would happen if the army failed to comply with the demonstrators' expectations.'

8:12 P.M.: Egyptian army troops have erected barbed wire and other barriers around the barracks where Morsi is working, eyewitnesses report. In Cairo and in other major cities, the army has deployed additional troops ahead of an expected statement from Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sissi, witnesses and local media said. Armoured vehicles are said to be moving through Cairo's streets, in the direction of the site where a pro-Morsi demonstration is to be held, near Cairo University.

7:45 P.M.: U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has spoken to the Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi twice in the past week, the Pentagon spokesman said Tuesday.

Refusing to release details about the content of the calls, the spokesman said U.S. officials have been very clear that America remains committed to the democratic process in Egypt, and expressed hopes the tensions there can be resolved peacefully.

7:40: Airport officials say a travel ban has been issued against Morsi, AP reports. The officials said that the travel ban on Morsi has to do with his escape from prison with more than 30 other Muslim Brotherhood during the 2011 uprising against autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Also banned from travel is Brotherhood leader Mohammed Badie, his deputy Khairat el-Shater. The opposition accuses them of calling all the shots during Morsi's year in power. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak to the media.

7:25 P.M. Egyptian officials confirm travel ban has been issued against Morsi, Muslim Brotherhood chief and deputy chief.

7:16 P.M. A presidential aide said to Reuters that Morsi's message, asking all Egyptians to resist a military coup, is one of nonviolence. Stating that the president is still working at the Republican guard barracks in Cairo, the advisor said it was unclear if he was allowed to leave the compound.

6:50 P.M. Military coup underway, says Egyptian president's national security advisor, adding that 'no military coup can succeed against popular resistance without considerable bloodshed.'

6:35 P.M. Tahrir crowds rejoice upon hearing the reports, as yet unconfirmed, that claim President Morsi has been placed under house arrest and the head of the Muslim Brotherhood has been barred from leaving Egypt.

6:15 P.M. Hundreds of thousands of protesters are currently occupying Tahrir Square in Cairo. Egypt's interior minister has instructed the police to distribute water and juice to the crowds, the Egyptian news agency reports.

6:00 P.M. Urging military 'not to take sides,' Morsi refuses to step down. On his Facebook page, Morsi says he will remain in office but suggests the formation of a unity government which will include members of all political parties. Reiterating past statements, Morsi says he holds opposition parties responsible for obstructing a political initiative that would also set up a panel to prepare amendments to the constitution passed into law last December.

An excerpt from the statement reads as follows: "Whoever thinks that Egypt can go backwards by destroying the legitimacy of the constitution and the revolution and imposing the legitimacy of force on this noble Egyptian nation which tasted freedom or would not pay its blood as a price for protecting it, is mistaken. The Egyptian people will hold on to peacefulness of their revolution."

5:55 P.M. Morsi insisted on "constitutional legitimacy" minutes before army ultimatum ended, Egypt Independent reports.

5:52 P.M. Demonstrators waiting for word form the army fill Tahrir Square as the official military ultimatum expires.

5:30 P.M. The head of Egypt's state television and radio confirms, in remarks carried by state newspaper Al-Ahram, that Republican Guards have been securing and protecting the state TV building for the past several days.

5:00 P.M. The Egyptian Army general command currently meeting with religious, national, political and youth figures, according to the army's official Facebook page. A statement will be issued after the meeting's conclusion.

4:41 P.M. Officers from the army's media department are present inside the state TV's newsroom, monitoring the content released, though not yet interfering, staffers say.

Egypt's state TV is run by the information minister, a Muslim Brotherhood member put in the post by Morsi, and its coverage had largely been in favor of the government. But already in the past two days, the coverage saw a marked shift, with reporting showing the anti-Morsi protests along with pro-Morsi ones.

4:38 P.M. A presidential spokesman says Morsi, intent on defending the electoral legitimacy of his office, would prefer to die 'standing straight like a tree' rather than going down in history as the one who destroyed Egypt's hope for democracy.

4:12 P.M. Promising to stand firm against any pressure brought by the army on president Morsi to step down, Muslim Brotherhood vows to 'stand in front of tanks,' according to spokesman Gehad El-Haddad. "The only plan any ppl hv in the face of an attempted coup is to stand in front of the tanks. Just like we did in #Jan25 Rev," El-Haddad posted on Twitter, referring to the 2011 revolt that toppled president Mubarak.

3:59 P.M. Armored vehicles belonging to the military are surrounding the Egyptian TV building in Cairo, security forces report. "El Arabiya" network reports that the army and the president's guard have taken control of the building. All network personnel who are not involved in live coverage have left the building.

3:53 P.M. The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood refused an invitation to meet the armed forces commander hours before the army deadline expires, military and party sources say.

"We do not go to [meetings] with anyone. We have a president and that is it," says Waleed al-Haddad, a senior leader of the Freedom and Justice Party.

3:36 P.M. Armored military vehicles guard Egypt state TV building, staff not working on live productions have left, security sources say.

2:10 P.M.: Egyptian liberal opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei meets with army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sis. The heads of state Islamic institute, Al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Coptic Church also joined the meeting, a government source said. Political sources said two members of the "Tamarud - Rebel!" youth group that is leading the anti-Morsi protests also attended, as did members of the hardline Muslim fundamentalist Nour Party. (Reuters)

1:15 P.M.: Egypt's military council is currently holding a crisis meeting, according to a military source.

The meeting is being held hours before the expiry of a deadline set by the army for rival politicians to find a solution to the country's political crisis. The source says the meeting was being attended by senior commanders of the armed forces. (Reuters)

11:45 A.M.: Morsi's hardline Islamist allies in Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya want him to call early presidential elections to avoid bloodshed and a military coup, Tarek al-Zumar, a senior member of the group told Reuters.

The Gamaa Islamiya, once an armed group that is one of Morsi's few remaining allies, had been advising the head of state to call early presidential elections in the two days since the army issued a deadline for politicians to resolve the political conflict by Wednesday.

"This peaceful, constitutional transfer (of power) will spare blood," Zumar told Reuters by telephone, adding that it would also protect the constitution that was passed into law in December.

He said the army's statement appeared to presage a coup, but this "can be avoided if the president decides to hold a referendum on early presidential elections". (Reuters)

11:05 A.M.: Egypt's central bank tells branches to close early, as Egytpian army's deadline to Morsi approaches. (Reuters)

10:40 A.M.: Essam Al-Erian, deputy leader of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said anyone wagering that the people would stay calm in the face of military revolt would lose their bet. (Reuters)

9:55 A.M.: An Egyptian military source has denied the reports in Al Ahram newspaper, and stated that the next step is to invite political, social, and economic figures to gather for talks on creating a plan for solving the crisis. (Reuters)

9:30 A.M.: Egypt's state-run Al Ahram newspaper released details of a "road map" for solving the crisis, reportedly drafted by the Egyptian military. The plan would force Morsi to step down, or be removed from office by Egypt's armed forces. Then, a nine to 12 month transitional period would begin, during which the nation would be run by a three-member council, chaired by the head of the supreme constitutional council. A new constitution would be drafted during this period. (Reuters)

4:00 A.M.: Egypt's high command said the army was ready to die to defend Egypt's people against terrorists and fools, in response to Morsi that was headlined "The Final Hours." (Reuters)

2:45 A.M.: Three people killed and about 90 wounded in clashes near Cairo University between supporters of President Morsi and security forces, according to Egypt's health ministry. Witnesses hear shotgun and rifle fire and teargas envelops the area. Television pictures show ambulances taking away casualties. (Reuters)

Fireworks over Cairo.Credit: AP
Egypt's Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on TV in July 2013.Credit: AFP

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