Cairo - Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has repeated a call
for dialogue in an attempt to mitigate deep political divisions ahead of
planned rallies against him, while opposition leaders insisted on Saturday that
he step down.
"I have said it before. I urge everyone to sit together
to discuss what would achieve the interests of our nation," Morsi said in
an interview published in the state-owned Akhbar al-Youm newspaper.
The interview comes a day after tens of thousands of Morsi
supporters massed in Cairo in a show of strength ahead of opposition protests
planned for 30 June.
Egypt is deeply polarised. Morsi's supporters say he is
clearing institutions of decades of corruption but his critics accuse him of
concentrating power in the hands of his Muslim Brotherhood movement.
Since taking office a year ago, Morsi has squared off with
the judiciary, media, police and most recently artists.
Leading Egyptian dissident Mohamed ElBaradei urged the
president to resign for the sake of national unity.
"For Egypt's sake, I call on President Mohamed Morsi to
resign and give us the opportunity to begin a new phase based on the principles
of the revolution, which are freedom and social justice," ElBaradei said.
"I would like to call on President Mohamed Morsi and
his Muslim Brotherhood to respond to the cries from all over Egypt," he
said at a conference grouping opposition leaders aimed at drawing up a plan for
a post-Morsi Egypt.
There is much anticipation and anxiety ahead of the 30 June protests,
with fears of violence and instability.
But Morsi says there is still room to resolve differences
off the streets.
He said he would consider bringing forward parliamentary
elections, which are scheduled to take place later this year, although no date
has yet been set.
"I will continue in my pursuit for contact, and I may
speed up parliamentary elections as a way of involving everyone in an agreed
method to manage our differences," Morsi said.
"The call for protest on June 30 reflects the
atmosphere of freedom granted to us by the revolution" of 2011, he said.
No intention to step down
Morsi has been in office for just one year and in Saturday's
interview he implied he had no intention to step down before the end of his
"If Egyptians choose someone other than me in the next
elections, I will hand him the power according to the constitution and to the
law," Morsi said.
"And I will do this with goodwill... in accordance with
democracy and my rejection of any monopoly of power," he said.
He appealed for calm and accused those who benefited from
the regime of ousted president Hosni Mubarak of inciting instability.
"They want to bring back the past because the
revolution harmed their interests. (People) must stop their evil plans because
they do not want calm and stability for Egypt," Morsi said.
The tone reflects a view taken by his supporters who accuse
the opposition of being remnants of the Mubarak regime and of being
Morsi's critics say he has betrayed the revolution that
brought him to power and has failed to achieve any of its goals.
During his tenure, the economy has taken a tumble,
investment has dried up, the vital tourism industry has been battered and
inflation has soared.
Political divisions have also spilled onto the streets in
violent and sometimes deadly confrontations.
With Egypt deeply polarised between Morsi's mainly Islamist
supporters and wide-ranging opposition, ElBaradei said it was time for
"national reconciliation" in order to move forward.
What is needed is "a system based on free and fair
elections with international and local monitoring (and) parliamentary elections
to have all segments of society represented," he said.
"We want the Egypt that the revolution rose up
for," he said.
A campaign dubbed Tamarod (rebellion in Arabic) called the
June 30 rally to coincide with the first anniversary of Morsi becoming
Tamarod organisers said they have collected 15 million
signatures demanding that Morsi quit, leaving the government jittery and
energising the fragmented opposition.