Cairo - Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohammed
Morsi rallied on Sunday to demand his reinstatement, even as officials said a
"gradual" break-up of their protest camps was imminent.
Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, meanwhile,
announced a last-ditch effort to resolve the tense political standoff and
called for reconciliation talks between the rival sides.
Before the police finally moves in, Morsi loyalists are to
be given fresh warnings to evacuate the two protest camps erected in Cairo
since the army ousted the Islamist leader on 3 July, security officials told
They did not give a date for the launch of operations but
the interim government has repeatedly warned the camps will be dismantled after
the Muslim holidays of Eid al-Fitr which came to a close on Sunday.
Defiant Morsi loyalists called for new massive protests on
Tuesday after again rallying to demand his reinstatement and condemn the army.
"Sisi is a traitor, Sisi is a killer," shouted
protesters who took part in a march of hundreds of women in central Cairo,
referring to army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi who was behind Morsi's overthrow.
In east Cairo, a convoy of cars plastered with pictures of
Morsi flooded the streets of a neighbourhood, with drivers blaring their car
horns in a show of support for the deposed president.
Morsi loyalists, led by his Muslim Brotherhood movement,
have kept in place the huge protest camps in the capital and have also staged
almost daily demonstrations around the country.
They insist they will empty the camps, where women and
children figure among the protesters, only if he is reinstated.
A series of gradual steps
But the interim government, which took over just hours after
Morsi's ouster more than a month ago, is determined to dismantle the protest
sit-ins at Rabaa al-Adawiya and Nahda.
"There will be a series of gradual steps. We will
announce every step along the way," an interior ministry general told AFP
of measures to break up the Cairo sit-ins.
Once the siege begins, the protesters will be
"surrounded" and will be given "several warnings" to leave,
another security official said, adding that the operation will last "two
to three days".
Both officials, who requested anonymity, did not specify
when the operation will start, with one of them saying: "No final decision
has been taken."
But a senior Muslim Brotherhood official, Farid Ismail, told
a news conference: "We want to send a message to the coup leaders: the
Egyptian people insists on continuing its revolution ... And the people will
insist on turning out in all squares".
In a sign of the mounting tension, electricity briefly went
out on Saturday night at Rabaa al-Adawiya, triggering panic among pro-Morsi
protesters who thought the feared assault had begun.
Sunday's rallies - which came after the Anti-Coup Alliance
of Morsi supporters announced 10 marches around the capital - came as Al-Azhar
called for political reconciliation talks.
Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb is on Monday to launch
contacts with political factions and hopes to organise reconciliation talks
later this week, state media reported.
"Al-Azhar has been studying all the proposals for
reconciliation put forward by political and intellectual figures... to come up
with a compromise formula for all Egyptians," Tayyeb's adviser, Mahmud
Azab, told state-owned daily Al-Ahram.
Roadmap for transition
But the Muslim Brotherhood is likely to reject an invitation
for dialogue with Tayyeb as he had sat alongside Sisi when the army chief
announced the Islamist president's overthrow.
The interim leadership has drawn up a political roadmap for
Egypt's transition which provides for new elections in 2014, and it has said
the Brotherhood can take part in the transition.
More than 250 people have been killed in clashes since
Morsi's ouster, following several mass rallies demanding his resignation.
A demonstrator at one sit-in said: "We are protesting
because they have thrown our votes into the rubbish bin. Morsi was elected
democratically and nothing can replace democracy."
Morsi's turbulent single year in power polarised Egyptians
and his ouster has deepened divisions.
His critics say he concentrated power in Brotherhood hands
and that under his tenure political divisions spilled out onto the streets in
deadly clashes while the economy tumbled.
On 30 June, millions took to the streets to demand Morsi's
ouster, openly calling on the army to remove him.
The interim leadership is under heavy pressure at home to
crack down on the pro-Morsi protests, and it has been pressed by the
international community to avoid bloodshed.
Senior US, EU and Arab envoys have taken turns to fly into
Cairo to try to persuade the two sides to find a peaceful way out of the crisis,
but they have all left empty-handed.