Cairo, July 3: Unfazed by mass protests demanding his ouster, Egypt's Mohamed Morsi today refused to quit as a deadline neared, setting the stage for a showdown with army as the beleaguered president and powerful military generals both pledged to sacrifice their lives to defend the country.
Egypt edged closer today to a return to rule by the army generals as a 48-hour military deadline for Morsi to resolve the ongoing political crisis appeared to be running out.
Egypt's first democratically elected President Morsi, who looked increasingly isolated as many of his cabinet colleagues abandoned him, said he had been elected in a free and fair poll to lead the nation and intended to stick to his task.
As clashes today killed 16 people and wounded over 200 at the Cairo University, the Interior Ministry sided with the army and vowed not to favour any one political movement over another. Asserting that police "belong to the people", the ministry issued a statement to fully supports the army's stand over protecting "national security and the state's interests".
"The police apparatus renews its vow to protect citizens and vital state institutions and to preserve the security of the protesters.. The police belong to the people. They stand with equal distance from all political factions, and do not side with one faction at the expense of the other."
61-year-old Morsi, in a 46-minute emotional address televised live across the country, warned the only alternative to respecting the constitutional legitimacy of the office was further bloodshed on the streets.
Morsi said he would give his life for Egypt and insisted he is the legitimate leader and will not give in to "violence and thuggery" by resigning.
According to analysts, Morsi's statement showed that he and his party Muslim Brotherhood are ready to face the risk of challenging the powerful army.
Meanwhile, the health ministry said 23 people were killed and 200 others injured in violence between pro-and anti Morsi supporters at Cairo University in the Giza district in the capital since last night, taking the toll to 39 since Sunday. Millions of people took to the streets this week under the banner of Tamarod (Arabic word for Rebellion) movement which is driving the campaign with a petition of signatures seeking Morsi's ouster and a snap election.
After Morsi's speech, the Tamarod movement accused him of "threatening his own people". In a counter-measure, hundreds of Islamists took to streets across country yesterday in support of Morsi, who just completed an year in office.
In Port Said in Suez Canal region, hundreds protested against army's Monday statement that gave President Morsi the 48-hour deadline to resolve the current impasse, describing it as a "coup against legitimacy." Hours after Morsi rejected the military ultimatum, the army today assured the people that it would shed its blood to defend Egypt against "any terrorist, radical or fool".
"The general commander of the armed forces said it was more honourable for us to die than to have the people of Egypt terrorised or threatened," the army today said in a statement headlined "The Final Hours". "We swear to God that we will sacrifice our blood for Egypt and its people against all terrorists, extremists and ignorant" groups, it said.
In a provocative comment, a high-ranking Muslim Brotherhood official yesterday said the Egyptian people should stand ready to give their lives away in order to stop a coup from taking place.
"Seeking martyrdom to prevent this coup is what we can offer to the previous martyrs of the revolution," Mohamed al-Beltagui said in a statement.
His statement refers to the more than 800 people who were killed in the 2011 uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.