Egyptian president reviews first year in office and expresses concern at political polarisation in country.
Egypt’s main opposition coalition has rejected President Mohamed Morsi’s offer for dialogue on reconciliation, and said it insisted on holding early presidential elections.
A statement by the National Salvation Front – an umbrella of opposition groups – read by reform leader Mohamed ElBaradei said on Thursday that Morsi’s two-and-a-half-hour speech reflected a “clear inability” to acknowledge the difficult conditions in Egypt.
Morsi spoke late on Wednesday ahead of opposition plans for street rallies on June 30, aimed at forcing him from office.
The country’s first democratically elected president told his opponents to use elections not protests to try to change the government and counselled the military to focus on improving its capabilities and defending the nation.
Morsi also warned that the army would intervene if protesters used violence.
However, ElBaradei said “nothing will change our determination to go out on June 30 everywhere in Egypt”.
The country is now braced for a showdown in the streets after Morsi’s speech failed to satisfy his opponent’s demands.
Days of brawling between Morsi supporters and his rivals have already left several dead and scores injured, and the planned mass rallies raise the risk of bigger clashes that the army has warned could prompt it to take command again.
On Friday, Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood and their allies will gather in Cairo, as will some opposition groups.
On Sunday, the opposition hopes millions will heed the call, a year to the day since Morsi became Egypt’s first freely elected leader.
“I am more determined than ever to go out on June 30 to demand the removal of an absolutely irresponsible president,” Khaled Dawoud, spokesman for a coalition of liberal parties, said on Thursday after Morsi’s late-night address.
During the speech Morsi described his opponents as “enemies” and “saboteurs” loyal to ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak, whose “corruption” had thwarted him and driven the economy into crisis, though he conceded he had made some mistakes and promised reforms.
He also offered talks on “national reconciliation” and changes to a controversial new constitution to end the polarisation and paralysis that he said threatened democracy, a move dismissed by opponents as nothing new.
“Our demand was early presidential elections and since that was not addressed anywhere in the speech then our response will be on the streets on June 30,” said Mahmoud Badr, the journalist behind a petition which has garnered millions of signatures calling on Morsi to quit.
“I hope he’ll be watching.”