Egypt could collapse if political tussle continues: Army chief

Egypt's army chief today warned that the current wave of unrest that triggered political crisis in the country "could lead to a collapse of the state", even as the death toll mounted to 52 in days of protests and violence.

Gen Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, who is also the country's Defence Minister, made the comments two days after President Muhammed Mursi declared a month-long emergency in riot-hit Port Said, Ismailia and Suez provinces and deployed military in the region along the strategic Suez Canal.

In comments posted on his Facebook page, Gen al-Sissi said such a collapse could "threaten future generations". Overnight, thousands of people in the worst violence hit cities ignored the curfew and temporary state of emergency to take to the streets.

According to state TV, a total of 590 people were injured in violence across the country yesterday alone, with most of them in Port Said. Medics said two people were killed in clashes in Port Said late last night while another was shot dead near Tahrir Square here.

Gen Sissi's statement appears to be a "veiled threat to protesters and opposition forces as well as an appeal for calm and an attempt to reassure Egyptians about the role of the military", BBC reported.

"The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations," Sissi said.

He said the economic, political and social challenges facing Egypt represented "a real threat to the security of Egypt and the cohesiveness of the Egyptian state". He described the army as "the solid and cohesive block" on which the state rests.

Sissi was appointed by Mursi after the army handed over power to him following his election in June. He replaced Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi who had been ousted President Hosni Mubarak's long-time defence minister and was in charge of the army following his fall from power in February 2011.

The current waves of violence erupted after a Port Said court had sentenced to death 21 local football fans involved in deadly riots at a football match in the city almost a year ago. Protesters elsewhere have been marching in opposition to Mursi's authority in the wake of the Egyptian revolution's second anniversary.

Yesterday, Egypt's main opposition coalition rejected as "waste of time" a call by Mursi for a national dialogue to end a wave of unrest. Meanwhile, the US has condemned the use of deadly force against demonstrators.

"We strongly condemn the recent violence that has taken place in various Egyptian cities. We look to all Egyptians to express themselves peacefully and for all Egyptian leaders to make clear that violence is not acceptable," White House Press Secretary Jay Carney said.

The US, he said, welcomes serious calls for national dialogue to avoid further violence and to find peaceful means to move forward with the political process and building national unity.

Amnesty International has also condemned the use of force against demonstrators, saying, "Eyewitness accounts collected by Amnesty International in Egypt point to the unnecessary use of lethal force by security forces during a weekend of clashes with demonstrators."

"Egyptian authorities must issue clear orders to those policing protests to respect freedom of peaceful assembly and avoid unnecessary or excessive force," Amnesty said.

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