Archive for June, 2013

By Matt Robinson

TIRANA | Tue Jun 25, 2013

(Reuters) – With almost all votes counted, Albania’s Socialist opposition was on course for a landslide victory on Tuesday in a parliamentary election, but there was still no word from defeated Prime Minister Sali Berisha.

Berisha, the country’s dominant political figure since the end of Stalinist rule in 1991, has not been seen or heard in public since Sunday, when Albanians voted to deny him a third consecutive term as premier.

With votes counted from 86 percent of polling stations in the impoverished NATO country, a Socialist-led alliance headed by former Tirana mayor Edi Rama was on track to take 84 of parliament’s 140 seats. Berisha’s Democrats were on 56.

The West is anxious to see a smooth handover of power in a country that is deeply polarized between the Socialists and Democrats and no stranger to political violence.

A peaceful transition would help revive Albania’s stalled bid to join the European Union, which has yet to accept Tirana’s application to join due to misgivings over its democratic maturity and deep-rooted corruption.

At 68, defeat for Berisha could mean the end of his career.

“We continue to wait quietly, respecting our democratic and European ethics, for our opponent to accept his loss and accept and join Albania’s great victory,” said Rama, a 48-year-old artist who, as mayor, won international acclaim for revitalizing Albania’s drab capital with splashes of paint and avenues of trees.


The EU, which will make Croatia its 28th member on July 1, commended the “overall orderly” conduct of the election.

“Now it is important that the remaining stages of the election process are conducted in line with EU and international standards,” EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fuele said in a joint statement.

“We call on all political parties to act in a constructive spirit for the good of the Albanian people,” they said.

The Socialists disputed Berisha’s last election win in 2009, and called supporters into the streets. Four were eventually shot dead by security forces.

Berisha was credited with taking Albania into NATO in 2009 and onto the first rung of EU membership, but his opponents accuse him of undermining democracy and allowing graft and organized crime to flourish.

Rama says he will reboot Albania’s EU bid and transplant his success in overhauling Tirana to the rest of the rundown country of 2.8 million people that hugs the Adriatic coast between Montenegro in the north and Greece to the south.

He will inherit an economy feeling the effects of the crisis in the euro zone, particularly in Greece and Italy where some 1 million Albanian migrants work and send money home.

Unlike its Balkan peers, Albania has avoided recession, but remittances are down and there is concern over rising public debt and the government’s budget deficit.

(Additional reporting by Benet Koleka; Editing by Mark Trevelyan)

Source: Reuters.


June 25, 2013

TIRANA, Albania (AP) — Albania’s Socialist party appeared headed for a landslide election victory Tuesday, in what it says will act as a springboard for the country’s future membership of the European Union.

Socialist supporters on foot and in cars braved a heat wave to celebrate in the city center, waving purple party flags as the country’s election commission gave the party led by Edi Rama 52 percent of vote, with 80 percent of ballots counted.

“We continue to calmly wait for our opponent to accept defeat,” Rama told supporters who chanted, “victory, victory.” Conservative Prime Minister Sali Berisha, who had been seeking a third term, had yet to concede defeat in Sunday’s general election. Berisha’s Democrats had 36 percent of the vote counted — 12 percentage points less than four years ago.

Both Rama, 48, and Berisha, 68, had campaigned on the pledge of gaining EU candidate status for Albania, which was once one of the world’s most reclusive countries during its Communist years. Albania has already taken strides in joining international institutions — in 2009, it became a member of NATO.

“Let’s continue together as a country and as a nation our effort toward the place we deserve — the family of the united Europe,” said Rama in his victory speech late in the evening in front of hundreds of supporters at party headquarters.

But that would require swift and sweeping reforms in areas highlighted by the EU as the country’s enduring weak points, including the judiciary, organized crime, and widespread corruption. The Berlin-based corruption watchdog Transparency International ranks Albania 113 of 176 countries on its Corruption Perceptions Index, while the country’s annual economic output is only $12 billion.

Wedged between crisis-hit Greece and Italy, Albania is heavily reliant on remittances from its migrant workers and has suffered since recession swept across southern Europe. With growth muted, the new government will be tasked to slash budget deficits, modernize production and agriculture and breathe life into the emerging tourism industry.

Rama warned his supporters that the joy of the moment will not create “jobs, better education and health systems, or new roads.” “This victory is not the arrival but only the start. That change will not come overnight and easily. All together we should work and sacrifice to make it happen,” he said.

Sunday’s election was marred by a deadly shooting outside a polling station in northern Albania. International observers cited significant improvements from previous polls, but said the election process had suffered from intense party rivalry.

However, EU High Representative Catherine Ashton and Enlargement Commissioner Stefan Fule praised the “overall orderly manner” of the Albanian elections. But they added that once the results are certified, that a new government is formed quickly in order “to address the immediate challenges ahead to ensure that the country’s reform agenda is vigorously pursued.”

In an unusual gesture in the ever-squabbling Albanian politics, Rama also thanked his predecessor, Berisha, “for every good thing, which history tomorrow may evaluate with a higher objectivity than mine today.”

“I wish him all the best in his private life,” he said, though Berisha has not hinted he will withdraw from politics. A pre-election dispute over the country’s Central Election Commission could also complicate the final stages of the vote count.

The CEC is dominated by Berisha allies despite a damaging split in the conservative coalition in April. Because of Albania’s voting system, the popular vote does not directly translate into the number of seats each party will get in the 140-member Parliament.

27 June 2013

Al Sareif Beni Hussein — Reports from Al Sareif Beni Hussein in North Darfur say that the town is still besieged by Abbala tribesmen. Local sources claimed finding a mass grave in Al Sareif Beni Hussein city on Thursday containing “62 bodies of members of the Beni Hussein tribe”.

The sources said the Beni Hussein were killed “in an ambush by Abbala in an area four kilometers north of Al Sareif city.” They added the Abbala stole “between 3,000 and 4,000 head of cattle” On the same occasion.

Representatives of Unamid, who according to sources have documented the recent incidents in the area, said that 24 wounded arrived at the hospital of Al Sareif, while more than 20 people from the Beni Hussein tribe are still missing.

Speaking to Radio Dabanga from Al Sareif, a source said “all the roads leading to the town are completely closed while an atmosphere of sadness, wariness and anticipation of renewed clashes hangs over the region,” according to witnesses who spoke to Radio Dabanga.

“Chadian Arabs”

Beni Hussein leader Al Nour Sayer Mohamed told Radio Dabanga from Al Sareif that “the Abbala invited groups of Chadian Arabs on more than 75 vehicles and horses to attack the Beni Hussein north of Al Sareif, killing a large number, and looting of thousands of livestock”.

Sayer said that bodies of the dead are still on the battlefield and there are others who are wounded or missing following the clashes that broke out on Wednesday, but said that the estimate of the actual number of casualties is still ongoing.

The omda of Al Sareif, Omar Abdullah Al Nour, appealed to the government via Radio Dabanga to “immediately intervene, impose its authority and resolve the situation. The security of citizens is the responsibility of the state,” he said.

“The government is conspicuously absent at a time when Abbala soldiers affiliated to the government are using government weapons and vehicles in their attacks.”

In an interview with Radio Dabanga, the omda described the situation in Al Sareif Beni Hussein locality as tense. “Abbala are approaching from all directions to attack the city of Al Sareif,” he said. “It is the duty of the state to impost its presence before it’s too late.”

The omda appealed to all the people of Darfur who are fighting among themselves “to fear God and ask themselves who the beneficiary is and who is behind it? What is happening now in Darfur is very serious and requires all the sons of Darfur to act and use their brains”.

He suggested that villages and the country-side of Darfur are being torched and destroyed, and “maybe soon everyone will have moved to cities because there are no more villages.”

Afflicted citizens of Al Sareif appealed to the government to intervene and protect Sudanese civilians. The Beni Hussein leader told Radio Dabanga: “if the government consider us to be people of Sudan then we Sudanese are supposed to receive protection and security.”

He appealed to the United Nations and the Security Council to immediately intervene. “Al Sareif is in urgent and immediate need of aid,” he said.

Saraf Omra:

In the nearby town of Saraf Omra, the market was closed on Thursday after the arrival of “a large number of four-wheel-drive vehicles belonging to the Abbala,” witnesses said.

Due to “fear and tension that currently prevails in the region” because of the Abbala-Beni Hussein conflicts, citizens and traders are said to have “rushed to shut down the market the moment the Abbala entered the city.”

Witnesses said that the “Abbala militias did not want anything to do with the market and its shops”, saying that their “many vehicles were just parked around the market.”

The Abbala and Beni Hussein tribes fought violently earlier this year over control of the Jebel ‘Amer gold mine in Al Sareif Beni Hussein locality, leaving at least 500 people killed. The UN estimates that more than 100,000 people were displaced.

Source: allAfrica.


By Salma Awwad

Thursday, 27 June 2013

Tickets for the FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013, which will be the biggest football event ever staged in the Middle East when it begins on October 17, went on sale on Thursday, officials said.

The fifteenth FIFA U-17 World Cup, which takes place from October 17 to November 8, is the largest football event ever held in the emirates and one of the world’s biggest international tournaments.

This is first year the UAE has won the bid to host the event, after the United States failed to qualify, despite appearing in all fourteen previous tournaments.

This biennial FIFA tournament has catapulted many of today’s football stars to fame, such as Ronaldinho from Brazil, Luis Figo from Portugal and Italy’s Del Piero.

“I am looking forward to seeing huge support for the tournament across the UAE. Fans around the world should secure their match tickets and get behind their team! This tournament has been the birthplace for many of the legends we see in the game today, so we can definitely expect to see some spectacular football,” said Emirati footballer Omar Abdulrahman, who was named ‘Player of the Year’ at the recent end of season awards and has been appointed the official tournament ambassador.

“This is a region that is crazy about football and with the best 24 U-17 teams in the world finally coming together to compete for the trophy, I am confident that tickets will sell fast,” said the 21-year old player.

Less than four months are left until the first day of 52 matches begins.

The tournament will be played across five of the Emirates of the UAE, over a three week period in six of the UAE’s top stadiums – Mohammed Bin Zayed Stadium in Abu Dhabi, Emirates Stadium in Ras Al Khaimah, Fujairah Stadium in Fujairah, Sharjah Stadium in Sharjah, Rashid Stadium in Dubai and Khalifa Bin Zayed Stadium, Al Ain.

FIFA U-17 World Cup UAE 2013 Qualified Nations are: Japan, Iran, Iraq, Uzbekistan, UAE, Ivory Coast, Morocco, Nigeria, Tunisia, Russia, Italy, Sweden, Slovakia, Austria, Croatia, Canada, Honduras, Panama, Mexico, New Zealand, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela and Uruguay.

Dubai has committed to hosting various youth events in the future including the fourth International Swimming Federation (FINA) world junior swimming competition in August this year and the 2014 men’s Under-17 Basketball World Championship (FIBA).

Tickets can be bought on FIFA’s official website and start from AED35 ($9.52). The FIFA U-17 world Cup UAE 2013 Official Draw will take place on August 26, when single match tickets will also go on sale.

Source: Arabian Business.


27 June 2013-PA Sport

Iraq accounted for Egypt to go top of Group E at the FIFA U-20 World Cup in Turkey as England and Chile drew.

Iraq’s 2-1 win over Egypt left the Pharaohs on the brink of an early exit after successive defeats.

Mohanad Abdulraheem scored a 79th winner as Hakeem Shaker’s side came from behind at Antalya’s Akdeniz University Stadium to move ahead of Chile on goals scored.

Hassan Ahmed gave Egypt a 27th minute lead before Amar Abdulhussein equalised on 33 minutes.

England’s hopes are hanging by a thread after a second-half effort from Harry Kane salvaged a 1-1 draw against Chile.

Peter Taylor’s men appeared to be heading for a defeat that would have been fatal after Nicolas Castillo put the South American side ahead from the penalty spot.

But Kane replied midway through the second half to secure another draw after the 2-2 weekend result against Iraq.

It means England, which have not won in 17 Finals matches in this competition, will now almost certainly need to break that horrendous sequence in its final match against Egypt in Bursa to reach the last 16.

In Group F, Uzbekistan and Croatia shared the spoils in Bursa to move to four points.

Sardor Rakhmanov opened the scoring for Akhmadjan Musaev’s team, in what was the first ever meeting between these teams, but Marko Livaja found a second-half equalizer.

Uruguay got its campaign up and running with a 2-0 victory over New Zealand.

Giorgian De Arrascaeta (fourth) and Nicolas Lopez (75th) got Uruguay’s goals to secure its first points for the tournament after a first up loss to Croatia.

The defeat sees New Zealand goalless and pointless after two games.

Source: The World Game.


June 29, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — As the streets once again fill with protesters eager to oust the president and Islamists determined to keep him in power, Egyptians are preparing for the worst: days or weeks of urban chaos that could turn their neighborhoods into battlegrounds.

Households already beset by power cuts, fuel shortages and rising prices are stocking up on goods in case the demonstrations drag on. Businesses near protest sites are closing until crowds subside. Fences, barricades and walls are going up near homes and key buildings. And local communities are organizing citizen patrols in case security breaks down.

For yet another time since President Mohammed Morsi took office last year, his palace in Cairo’s upscale Heliopolis neighborhood is set to become the focus for popular frustration with his rule. Some protests outside the capital have already turned deadly, and weapons — including firearms — have been circulating more openly than in the past.

“We’re worried like all Egyptians that a huge crowd will come, and it will get bloody,” said Magdy Ezz, owner of a menswear shop across from the walled complex, a blend of Middle Eastern and neoclassical architecture. Besides ordinary roll-down storm shutters, storefronts on the street are sealed off with steel panels.

“We just hope it will be peaceful. But it could be a second revolution,” he said. “If it lasts, we’ll have to keep the store closed. But it’s not like business has been booming here anyway, especially since the problems last year.”

Last winter, the area saw some of Cairo’s deadliest street violence since the 2011 uprising, with Islamists attacking a sit-in, anarchists throwing gasoline bombs, and police savagely beating protesters.

Morsi’s opponents aim to bring out massive crowds starting Sunday, saying the country is fed up with Islamist misrule that has left the economy floundering and security in shambles. They say they have collected 15 million signatures — around 2 million more than the number of voters who elected Morsi — calling for him to step down, and they hope the turnout will push him to do just that.

Morsi’s Islamist allies say they will defend the mandate of the country’s first freely elected president, some with their “souls and blood” if necessary, while hard-liners have vowed to “smash” the protests.

On Friday, thousands of Morsi supporters launched a counterdemonstration, which some plan to continue as an open-ended sit-in at a mosque near the presidential palace — the endpoint of the main protest march two days later.

Both camps say they intend to be peaceful, but demonstrations could rapidly descend into violence — especially if the two sides meet. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group has said five of its members were killed in clashes with protesters in Nile Delta provinces over the past days. On Friday, two people were killed in clashes in the port city of Alexandria and at least five Brotherhood offices were torched, while the nation’s highest religious authority, Al-Azhar, warned against “civil war.”

At the Brotherhood’s national headquarters in Cairo’s Muqattam district, workers added a final layer of mortar to a brick wall topped with grating to reinforce the main gate. A bank on the corner was completely boarded up. Some fear protesters could descend on the neighborhood to attack the headquarters, as happened last spring when supporters and opponents of the president fought street battles that left 200 wounded.

“The police have to get this place secured. It’s their job and I’m sure they will,” said Hadi Saad, a designer who lives around the corner from the headquarters. “The demonstrations will be very big across the country, no matter if (Morsi) stays or goes, so we should be prepared here as well.”

Other neighbors said they don’t expect a repeat of violence in the area, a hill overlooking the rest of the city. Only a handful of police patrolled the neighborhood ahead of the weekend protests, corralling a 100-car queue to the main avenue’s gas station.

Engineer Hasan Farag, also a neighbor, said residents were “hoping for the best.” Some have begun to resent the Brotherhood’s presence, however, and a petition to force the offices out has been circulating.

“The neighborhood is divided — some don’t mind the headquarters being here, others do,” Saad said. Security has been redoubled at the presidential palace in Heliopolis. Walls set up last year still block some traffic access, and curved concrete slabs designed to prevent climbing now protect the main gates. Shipping containers also line much of the perimeter, and nearby apartment buildings have blocked off their parking lots and side streets with barbed wire. On Friday, authorities built a new wall of concrete blocks to surround the complex.

Peter Soliman, a communications student who lives in the neighborhood, said most residents don’t know what to expect. “Of course, parents are worried about their children going out to demonstrate by the palace, especially if the Brotherhood shows up,” he said. “People fear things will turn bloody and divide the country.”

Other Heliopolis residents and protest organizers say neighborhood watch groups are already being formed. In the city center, concrete walls continue to block off the Interior Ministry and southern access routes to Tahrir Square, epicenter of the uprising that overthrew longtime autocrat Hosni Mubarak. Protesters began gathering at the square ahead of the weekend, saying they plan to dig in for a protracted conflict.

The nearby Semiramis Hotel is taking no chances, even though Tahrir is expected to be a sideshow compared to Sunday’s march to the palace. The site of repeated clashes between stone-throwing youths and riot police this past year, the luxury hotel has just finished fortifying itself with a spiked metal fence topped with razor-sharp blades.

To the south, in the leafy Garden City neighborhood — an area that has sometimes seen spillover violence from Tahrir — some residents were securing their homes. Metalworker Sameh Haddad used an arc welder to put the final touches on an apartment building’s new wrought iron gate before hurrying to other appointments. “For once, business has been great,” he said.

by Andre Colling

27 June 2013

Both pro- and anti-Morsi groups have organized countywide protests in Egypt over the next few days to coincide with the first anniversary of President’s Morsi’s rule.

Opposition political parties, activists and labor unions have called for countrywide anti-government demonstrations and protests against President Mohammed Morsi on 30 June, the one-year anniversary of Morsi assuming the presidency.

The planned protests are being organized under the collective banner of the Tamarod (rebellion) campaign. The opposition is demanding that Morsi resign and a new presidential election be held. The protest will focus on the Presidential Palace in the Heliopolis area of the capital, Cairo.

Political rallies in support of and against the 30 June opposition gatherings will also be held on 27 and 28 June. The opposition has stated that it will hold a rally in Cairo’s Sayeda Zeinab area on 27 June. On 28 June, another opposition rally will start in al-Azhar district and end at Tahrir Square.

A pro-government and pro-Morsi sit-in will also start in Cairo on 28 June, when supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) and Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya will gather in the vicinity of the Rabaa al-Adaweya Mosque in the Nasr City area of Cairo. Security will be increased ahead of and on 30 June.

Meanwhile, the military has reportedly placed its forces on alert near major cities while ferry and road crossings from the Sinai Peninsula will be closed. In addition, police will increase their presence in the vicinity of planned protest areas and airports will be placed on alert from 28 June to 1 July. Finally, the US and UK embassies in Cairo have announced that they will close on 30 June in anticipation of violence coinciding with the planned protests.

The upcoming protests are expected to gather tens of thousands of participants. Likely gathering points include public squares, city/town centers,  Muslim Brotherhood and FJP offices, mosques, universities and government facilities. There is a high threat of violence at all gatherings.

Clashes between rival political party supporters and between police or military personnel and protesters are possible. There are also likely to be road travel disruptions in the vicinity of all protest sites while closures of other foreign diplomatic representations are also anticipated in the coming days as a precaution. The largest demonstrations are anticipated in the country’s primary cities. Red Sea and southern Sinai coastal resort towns are likely to be less affected.

Source: allAfrica.


28 June 2013

Hundreds of demonstrators from Islamist parties and groups rallied in Cairo’s Rab’aa al-Adaweya Square on Friday morning to participate in a million-man demonstration entitled “Legitimacy is a Red Line”.

The demonstrators demand guarding constitutional legitimacy which is one of the most important revolution’s gains, the Middle East News Agency (MENA) reported.

They called for standing up to “the attempts of the former regime remnants to ignite strife in the country”.

The demonstrators also set up a large platform in front of Rab’aa al-Adaweya Mosque’s main gate, the MENA said.

Cairo’s traffic department deployed dozens of metal barriers around the area to redirect vehicles away from the square.

The Ministry of Health also deployed a number of ambulances in the area in case of emergencies.

Participants in today’s demonstration include the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party, the Building and Development Party, the al-Azala Party, the al-Watan Party and al-Gamaa al-Islamiya.

Source: allAfrica.


June 29, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Tens of thousands of supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi rallied Friday in Cairo, and both sides fought each other in the second-largest city of Alexandria, where two people were killed — including an American — and 85 were injured while at least five offices of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood were torched, officials said.

The competing camps were trying to show their strength before even bigger nationwide protests planned by the opposition Sunday — the first anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration — aimed at forcing his removal.

The opposition says it will bring millions into the streets across Egypt, and more violence is feared. Already, six people have been killed in clashes this week, including Friday’s deaths. The Cairo International Airport was flooded with departing passengers, an exodus that officials said was unprecedented. All flights departing Friday to Europe, the U.S. and the Gulf were fully booked, they said.

Many of those leaving were families of Egyptian officials and businessmen and those of foreign and Arab League diplomats — as well as many Egyptian Christians, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to talk to the press.

The U.S. State Department warned Americans against all but essential travel to Egypt, citing the uncertain security situation. It also said it would allow some nonessential staff and the families of personnel at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to leave until conditions improve.

Opposition protesters in Alexandria broke into the local headquarters of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and set fires, throwing papers and furniture out the windows. For several days, Brotherhood members and opponents of Morsi have battled in cities in the Nile Delta. With Friday’s deaths, at least six have been killed this week.

“We must be alert lest we slide into a civil war that does not differentiate between supporters and opponents,” warned Sheik Hassan al-Shafie, a senior cleric at Al-Azhar, the country’s most eminent Muslim religious institution.

Morsi opponents massed in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the protests in 2011 that ousted longtime leader Hosni Mubarak. The crowd shouted, “Leave, leave” — this time addressing Morsi. Tents were put up on the grass in the middle of the historic square.

Dozens of protesters also gathered at the gates of the presidential palace in the Heliopolis neighborhood of Cairo, urging him to resign, Egypt’s state news agency reported. At the same time, tens of thousands of Morsi supporters, mainly Islamists, filled a public square outside the Rabia el-Adawiya Mosque, not far from the palace. Islamist parties have decided to hold a sit-in.

“They say the revolution is in Tahrir,” said young activist Abdel Rahman Ezz, a Morsi supporter who addressed the crowd. “It is true the revolution started in Tahrir. But shamefully, today the remnants of the old regime are in Tahrir. The revolutionary youth are here.”

The palace is one of the sites where the opposition plans to gather Sunday and has been surrounded by concrete walls. In Alexandria, on the Mediterranean coast, fighting began when thousands of anti-Morsi demonstrators marched toward the Brotherhood’s headquarters, where up to 1,000 supporters of the president were deployed, protecting the building.

When an unidentified person on Islamist side opened fire with birdshot on the marchers, and the melee erupted, according to an Associated Press cameraman. Security forces fired tear gas at the Brotherhood supporters, but when the two sides continued battling, they withdrew. Protesters later broke into the building and began to trash it. Online video posted by witnesses showed a protester carrying a gun who appeared to be shooting at the Brotherhood building.

Alexandria security chief Gen. Amin Ezz Eddin told Al-Jazeera TV that an American was killed in Sidi Gabr Square while photographing the battle. The U.S. State Department later confirmed the death, in a statement from Patrick Ventrell, a press office director.

“We are providing appropriate consular assistance from our Embassy in Cairo and our Bureau of Consular Affairs at the State Department,” he said. A medical official said the American died of gunshot wounds at a hospital. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the press.

The Alexandria health department reported an Egyptian also died from a gunshot wound to the head. It was not immediately known if that victim was a Morsi opponent or supporter. The country witnessed a wave of attacks against Muslim Brotherhood offices across the country. The Brotherhood’s media spokesman, Gehad el-Haddad, said on his Twitter account that eight of his group’s headquarters were attacked and looted, and two were burned down.

He accused thugs, remnants of the old regime, including members of Mubarak’s disbanded National Democratic Party of being behind the attacks. Much of the violence was in the provinces of the Nile Delta, north of Cairo.

Protesters stormed an office of the Brotherhood, attacked members inside, injuring 10, and set the office on fire in the city of Shubrakheit, the state news agency said. Others stormed a Brotherhood office in the coastal city of Baltim, destroying electronic equipment, and another of the group’s branches was torched in the city of Aga.

Hundreds of protesters in the city of Bassioun threw stones at Freedom and Justice Party offices, tearing down the party sign. The Brotherhood says at least five of those killed this week were its members. Some people “think they can topple a democratically elected President by killing his support groups,” el-Haddad said earlier on his Twitter account.

There were reports of violence from the Islamist side in the Delta as well. At least six people were injured when an anti-Morsi march was attacked by the president’s supporters in the city of Samanod, according to a security official. Attackers fired gunshots and threw acid at the protesters as they passed the house of a local Brotherhood leader, the official said.

In the city of Tanta, four men believed to be Morsi supporters tried to attack a mosque preacher during his sermon, in which he called on worshipers to stand with Al-Azhar’s calls to avoid bloodshed.

In Qalioubia, north of Cairo, “popular committees” charged with managing traffic stopped a caravan of more than 90 Islamists heading to Cairo, according to a security official. The group, traveling in a bus and three minibuses, carried Molotov cocktails, clubs and gas cans, the official said.

One small bus escaped, but the others were turned over to police, the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not allowed to talk with the press. In the Suez Canal city of Port Said, an explosion left one dead and several others wounded at an opposition rally, a security official said. But the official and a witness said the blast was caused by a butane canister hit by fireworks.

In the southern city of Minya, a stronghold of hardline Islamic groups, a security official said that men affiliated to the Gamaa Islamiya group, a Brotherhood ally, fired in the air while an opposition rally was marching in the street, causing panic.

Each side has insisted it is peaceful and will remain so Sunday, blaming the other for violence. Tamarod, the activist group whose anti-Morsi petition campaign evolved into Sunday’s protest, said in a statement it opposed “to any attack against anybody, whatever the disagreement with this person was,” and accused the Brotherhood of sparking violence to scare people from participating Sunday.

Tamarod says it has collected nearly 20 million signatures in the country of 90 million demanding Morsi step down. “We are against Morsi because he does not govern in the name of the Egyptian people, but in the name of the Brotherhood group,” said Ayed Shawqi, a teacher at an anti-Morsi rally in Alexandria.

Outside the Rabia el-Adawiya Mosque, the pro-Morsi crowd waved Egyptian flags while speakers addressed them from a stage. A banner proclaimed, “Support legitimacy,” the slogan Morsi’s supporters have adopted, arguing that protests must not be allowed to overturn an elected president.

They also waved the Brotherhood’s flag — a green banner with two swords — and carried Morsi posters and portraits. “This is a revolution, and there is no other one!” they chanted. Speakers onstage praised the military and the crowd responded with, “The army and the people are one hand,” seeking to keep the military on the side of the president.

“Those who burn and those who kill are the traitors of this nation,” Brotherhood preacher Safwat Hegazi told the crowd. “Mr. President, use a heavier hand, your kind heart won’t be any use. … We want to complete our revolution and purify our country.”

Assem Abdel-Maged, leader of the formerly militant Gamaa Islamiya group, threatened to “sever heads” of opposition supporters if they attacked the military. Rafai Taha, one of the leading figures of Gamaa Islamiya, was also onstage, next to Brotherhood leaders.

In his Friday sermon, the cleric of Rabia el-Adawiya warned that if Morsi is ousted, “there will be no president for the country,” and Egypt will descend into “opposition hell.” Pro-Morsi marchers — many wearing green headbands with the slogans of the Muslim Brotherhood — chanted religious slogans. “It is for God, not for position or power!” they shouted. “Raise your voice high, Egyptian: Islamic Shariah!”

The anti-Morsi demonstrators in Tahrir Square also waved Egyptian flags. They cheered, clapped, whistled and chanted, “Egypt, Egypt, Egypt. Long live Egypt!” and “The people want the fall of the regime,” a phrase heard repeatedly in 2011.

One banner depicted President Barack Obama and said, “Obama supports terrorism.”

Associated Press writer Steve Negus and Mohammed Khalil of Associated Press Television News contributed to this report from Alexandria.

June 27, 2013

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt’s Islamist president told his opponents to use elections not protests to try to change the government and said the military should focus on its role as the nation’s defenders in a nationally televised address on Wednesday, days before the opposition plans massive street rallies aimed at removing him from office.

Mohammed Morsi’s words to the military came amid opposition hopes that the powerful generals will protect their protests Sunday in an implicit show of support. Morsi’s supporters accuse the opposition of fomenting a coup. Speaking at a giant conference hall packed with people, Morsi reminded his audience that “all agree” that the president is the supreme commander of the armed forces.

“There are some who don’t want the armed forces and the presidency to have a healthy relationship,” Morsi said. “All state institutions work in harmony and with discipline under the leadership of the head of state.”

The audience, packed with Cabinet members, officials from Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters, cheered his remarks on the military, which at times sounded like a rebuke to Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi.

Sitting on the front row, el-Sissi, sat silently. Days earlier he issued a sharp demand that both sides in the crisis reconcile and a warning that the military will not sit by if the nation is endangered by the political divisions.

Earlier on Wednesday, military officials said they were bringing reinforcements closer to Egypt’s main cities, apparently aimed at keeping security if violence erupts on Sunday. In his 2 ½-hour address, Morsi defended his performance in his first year in office, admitting to making mistakes but also claiming achievements. At one point he apologized for fuel shortages which have caused long lines at gas stations and have increased frustration and anger at the government. “I am saddened by the lines, and I wish I could join in and wait in line, too,” he said. At another, he apologized to the nation’s youth for not doing enough to involve them in the new political system and ordered Cabinet ministers and provincial governors to appoint assistants under the age of 40.

But he offered no compromises in the confrontation with his opponents. Those organizing the protests for Sunday — the anniversary of Morsi’s inauguration — say he must go because he has mismanaged the country, given a monopoly on decision-making to the Brotherhood and his Islamist allies and has encroached on the judiciary.

Protesters are hoping to bring out massive crowds Sunday, saying they have tapped into widespread discontent over economic woes, rising prices and unemployment, power cuts and lack of security. As Morsi spoke, several thousand of his opponents gathered in Tahrir square, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak, chanted “erhal!” or leave. Some chanted “the people want to overthrow the regime.” Several took off their shoes and held them up in a sign of contempt.

Morsi took aim at his opponents and critics. He demanded “some in the media stop spreading rumors.” He told the judiciary, with which he has clashed repeated over the past year, to stay out of politics, though he added he “respects very, very much” their status.

He told his political opponents to “enter elections if you want to change the government” and scolded them for brushing off his past appeals to hold a dialogue on the nation’s problems. “I have been surprised” by their refusals, he said repeatedly.

Morsi said protests were a legitimate way “to raise your opinion” but they cannot be “used to impose your opinion.” Morsi’s supporters say the protest organizers are trying to overturn democracy by reversing the election victories of Morsi and his Islamist allies. They have accused Mubarak loyalists of trying to foment a coup.

In the long speech, Morsi was often animated, at times angry, raising his voice. He frequently departed from his prepared remarks, switching for formal Arabic to Egyptian dialect to make jokes and present a common-man image. He was rewarded with rounds of applause from his supporters who, after the address, chanted “Oh president, we love you!”

On the whole, the address was a bid by Morsi to present himself as the nation’s safest pair of hands at a very difficult time, something that he sought to convey with talk about outside plots to destabilize Egypt and Mubarak loyalists trying to undermine his government.

He pledged “radical and quick” reforms in state institutions to address public complaints. He demanded the Cabinet and provincial governors remove all officials “who have caused crises for the people.”

He also announced steps against gas stations suspected in selling subsidized fuel on the black market — a sign of what a major political issue the gas lines have become. He blamed the security woes on “thugs,” some of whom he contended were paid to foment chaos.

He also promised to form a panel to draft amendments to the Islamist-backed constitution passed in a December referendum, an offer that is similar to one he made about six months ago but never bore fruition.

Morsi’s opponents calculate they can force him out through the sheer number of people they bring into the streets starting Sunday. But they are looking to the military to protect their crowds against possible attacks by hard-line Islamists.

Security officials, who spoke anonymously because they were not authorized to speak to reporters, said army commanders have carried out reconnaissance missions in areas and facilities they intend to protect.

The commander of the central military region on Tuesday inspected a media complex on the western outskirts of Cairo that houses several TV networks, some critical of Morsi. The complex was besieged at least twice in recent months by Islamists loyal to Morsi attempting to intimidate the networks and hosts of talk shows critical of the president.

Besides that complex, the military plans to protect the massive Nile-side building housing state TV, the Suez Canal, the Cabinet offices and parliament. Morsi’s supporters have accused organizers of the weekend rally of planning to use violence, but the protesters have repeatedly vowed to keep their demonstrations peaceful.

Morsi backers plan a rally of their own in Cairo on Friday for the second successive week. In last Friday’s rally, hard-line Islamists addressing the crowd vowed to “smash” the demonstrating opponents, whom they denounced as Mubarak loyalists.