World Bulletin / News Desk
Egypt's military rulers dismissed complaints from protesters on Friday that it was entrenching its rule and blamed the Muslim Brotherhood's presidential candidate for stirring up emotions that drew thousands onto Cairo's Tahrir Square.
In a brusque four-minute statement read on state television as Egyptians returned from weekly prayers - and as the revolutionary bastion of Tahrir was chanting for democracy - the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) made clear it had no plan to heed their calls to cancel a decree extending its powers or reverse its dissolution of the new, Islamist-led parliament.
"The issuance of the supplementary constitutional decree was necessitated by the needs of administering the affairs of the state during this critical period in the history of our nation," the off-screen announcer said, in the bureaucratic language favoured by the generals who pushed aside brother officer Hosni Mubarak last year to appease the angry millions on the streets.
In what were menacing tones for the army's old adversary the Muslim Brotherhood, SCAF said people were free to protest - but only if they did not disrupt daily life. And it called the premature announcement of results in last weekend's presidential election "unjustifiable" and a prime cause of the tension.
Both comments target the Islamists more than other groups and the Brotherhood was quick to hit back. It denounced the military's actions themselves as "unconstitutional". Deadlock between Egypt's two strongest forces seemed to be hardening, raising grave doubts on the prospects for consensual democracy.
The SCAF statement read: "Anticipating the announcement of the presidential election results before they are announced officially is unjustifiable, and is one of the main causes of division and confusion prevailing the political arena."
It also said the army had no power to repeal the dissolution of parliament, saying that was down to judges who ruled that some of January's election rules were unconstitutional:
"The verdicts issued by the judiciary are executed in the name of the people and refraining from implementing these verdicts is a crime punishable by law," it said, a warning to Islamists who are challenging the dissolution. Critics say the judges were appointed under Mubarak and so are not impartial.
The Brotherhood is mounting protest vigils on town squares to demand the reversal of the decree and the dissolution. It also fears a delay in announcing the result of the presidential election indicates an attempt to cheat - though opponents say it is the Islamists who are not playing fair.
The Brotherhood candidate Mohamed Morsy and former general Ahmed Shafik have both said they believe they have won last weekend's run-off ballot.
The delay in publication of results, due on Thursday but not now expected until at least Saturday, has heightened anxiety on all sides, although all sides say they will protest peacefully.
Mohamed Beltagy, senior member of the Brotherhood, told Reuters the movement would continue to reject SCAF's decree, which was issued as polls closed on Sunday, two days after a court gave the military grounds to dissolve the new parliament.
"The military council is calling for respect for the legitimacy of the state and its laws, but we are asking for there first to be respect for the legitimacy of the parliamentary election and the will of the people," he said.
"The Brotherhood restates its rejection of the constitutional declaration, which is itself unconstitutional," Beltagy added. "The military council does not have any legal rights to issue such a decree."
A Shafik spokesman declined comment. Shafik himself called on Thursday for restraint and accused Morsy of trying to pressure the electoral commission by prematurely giving results.
Of the military's latest statement, Hassan Nafaa, a political analyst who was a critic of Mubarak, said: "The military council's statement is intended to scare the people and quell the revolutionary spirit of the nation through the firm authoritarian tone in which the statement was delivered.
"But this will not work because all politically aware civilians refuse the military's stewardship over the state."
"This is a classic counter revolution that will only be countered by the might of protesters," said Safwat Ismail, 43, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood who came from the Nile Delta. "I am staying in the square until the military steps down."
Mahmoud Mohammed, a bearded, 31-year-old marine engineer from Alexandria among a group from the Salafist movement camping on the square insisted they were not looking for a battle, but wanted to see democracy installed.
"The people elected a parliament and they put it in the rubbish bin. We need the army to hand over," he said, adding: "No one came here for a fight. We need democracy."
Though tension is real across the country, many of Egypt's 82 million people are weary of turmoil and economic crisis, so it is unclear how large protests might become - though the Brotherhood alone has formidable reserves and capacities.
On Friday, most people appeared to be staying at home and passing Friday's Muslim weekend as normal, though once the fierce sun goes down, gatherings might grow.
At Tahrir, the broad traffic interchange by the Nile in central Cairo was filled with makeshift tents offering shade from the midday sun, hawkers offering an array of goods from tea to "I Love Tahrir Square" T-shirts. Many knelt in prayer during the weekly service. Large groups of pious Islamists were bussed in from the provinces by their parties.
The crowd chanted and waved Egyptian flags.
Greece's emotive campaign for war damages has been waged for decades by governments and private citizens alike. But it has gained momentum in recent years as Greeks suffered under the German-backed austerity imposed by the European Union and the International Monetary fund in exchange for financial bailouts.
Buildings have been evacuated as a huge fire starts in central London Street
Israel started withholding around $130 million a month in tax and customs revenues in December after the Palestinians announced that they were joining the International Criminal Court, a move finalised on Wednesday.
U.S. President Barack Obama on Wednesday issued an executive order creating new sanctions authority to punish individuals and entities engaged in cyber attacks.
At least nine people have reportedly been killed in Nigeria's northwestern Kano State
At least nine people were killed on Tuesday when hurricane-force winds lashed northern Europe in one of the most severe storms in years, forcing flights to be cancelled and disrupting road, train and marine traffic.
Russia and Ukraine agreed last year on a "winter package" for supplies with a price discount of $100 per thousand cubic metres and advance payments, but that accord expired on Tuesday and has yet to be replaced.
Sarkozy arrived Wednesday at financial section of high court of Paris to be interrogated over charges of breach of trust, complicity and concealment.
Police quiz Crimean Tatar Mejlis deputy head Umerov for seven hours and search his house.
Ethiopia is making preparations to evacuate its nationals from Yemen
U.S. State Department official who asked not to be named said Washington was ready to work with whoever was democratically elected in Nigeria and offered a positive.
Eritrean Foreign Ministry has refused claims that alleged Iranian support to Houthis group was being channeled through the Horn of Africa nation.
With officials touting victory in a month-long battle, state television said Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi was visiting the city, which the Islamist militants captured last June as they seized most of Iraq's Sunni territories.
First independent Crimean Tatar network ATR stops broadcasting after failing to get permission from Russian authorities.
President Obama said he would ask the U.S. Congress for $1.3 billion per year in military aid for Egypt and said he would lift holds on aircraft, missiles and tanks for Cairo in place since October 2013, the White House said in a statement.
German airline confirms co-pilot of crashed Germanwings plane informed company of severe depression episode.