Egypt's Morsi defiant as army's 'quit' deadline nears

Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi remains defiant despite increasing pressure on him to step down, insisting that he remains the country's legitimate president, as mass protests claimed more lives in the capital, Cairo on Tuesday and today.

In a late-night TV address, Morsi rejected an army ultimatum that the crisis be resolved by today.

Morsi said he would not be dictated to and urged protesters to remain peaceful. However, at least 16 people died and 200 were injured at one pro-Morsi rally in the city overnight. Reports say that Morsi supporters had been attacked by unidentified men carrying firearms.

Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi earlier leaked details of a draft "roadmap" for Egypt's future to the BBC. It outlines new presidential elections, the suspension of the new constitution and the dissolution of parliament.

The army had warned on Monday that it would step in unless a solution was found, giving Morsi 48 hours to find agreement with the opposition. That ultimatum expires this evening.

However, the unrest shows no sign of abating. The health ministry said that 16 people had been killed and 200 injured at a pro-Morsi rally near Cairo University on Tuesday night.

In a 45-minute address on state television, Morsi said he accepted the right to peaceful protest, but said respect for constitutional order was the "only guarantee against further bloodshed".

"When there's violence and thuggery I must act," he said.

Morsi said he would give his life to defend constitutional legitimacy.

He blamed the unrest on corruption and remnants of the ousted regime of Hosni Mubarak, and called for protesters to respect the rule of law.

But Mohammed Abdelaziz, a leader of the Tamarod (Rebel) opposition campaign, told AFP, "This is a president threatening his own people. We don't consider him the president of Egypt."

He says the president's opponents are celebrating as though he has already been forced from office, but Morsi and his Islamist supporters are not ready to tamely accept that fate.

There were outbreaks of violence in several parts of the capital on Tuesday, with casualties reported at hospitals in the north, south and centre of Cairo.

More clashes were reported across the country as leaders of the Muslim Brotherhood - the Islamist party from which Mr Morsi hails - urged their supporters on to the streets.

On Monday, eight people died as activists stormed and ransacked the Muslim Brotherhood's Cairo headquarters.

Thousands of protesters gathered in Tahrir Square in central Cairo on Tuesday afternoon to demand that Morsi step down.

But demonstrations that had been jubilant when the army's ultimatum was interpreted as a coup-in-the-making turned increasingly confrontational later in the day.

All eyes now are on Gen al-Sisi, who is reported to be most concerned that the reputation of the Egyptian army has been tarnished under his tenure.

The instability in Egypt has also hit global oil prices, sending US light crude above $100 a barrel for the first time since September last year, amid concerns supply routes through the Suez Canal could be affected.

Morsi earlier met Gen al-Sisi for a second consecutive day. They did not give any details of the talks, which also included Prime Minister Hisham Qandil.

Military sources told the BBC the president's position was becoming "weaker" with every passing minute and suggested that under the draft plan, he could be replaced by a council of cross-party civilians and technocrats ahead of new elections.

Morsi was put under further pressure by the resignation of six ministers from his government on Monday, including foreign minister Kamel Amr. On Tuesday, the spokesmen for the presidency and the cabinet were also reported to have quit.

The unrest has escalated since Sunday when Tamarod supporters rallied nationwide, urging the president to step down on the first anniversary of his coming to power.

Morsi became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair following the 2011 revolution that toppled Mubarak. However, his first year in office has been marred by constant political unrest and a sinking economy.