Sisi vows to defend Egypt against any threats to stability
CAIRO - Egypt's President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and his interior minister warned Sunday on the eve of planned anti-government demonstrations that security forces would deal firmly with protesters.
In a widely televised speech, Sisi insisted on the need for stability in the Arab world's most populous country, saying that attempts to degrade it "won't be successful" if Egypt stands united.
"We must protect these institutions because these mean the state," he said. "I am reiterating to the Egyptian people this is the responsibility of all of us, for us to protect this security and stability."
"Our responsibility is to protect security and stability, and I promise Egyptians that no one will terrorise them again," he said.
The armed forces will deploy at vital sites Monday to prevent saboteurs from taking advantage of these protests, Egypt's military spokesman Brig. Gen. Mohammed Samir said Sunday.
Sisi's comments raise the possibility of large-scale counter-demonstrations, in addition to a potentially harsh police intervention— especially if the demonstrators attempt to reach the heavily policed Tahrir Square.
Protests are essentially banned in Egypt under laws passed after Sisi led the military overthrow of his divisive Islamist predecessor, Mohammed Morsi, in 2013.
Interior Minister Magdy Abdel Ghaffar, in a statement, said "the nation's security and stability... constitute a red line and no attempt to damage them will be tolerated".
"Security services... will confront with extreme rigour any attempt to disturb public order."
In defiance of a ban on unauthorised demonstrations, secular and leftist activists have called for an anti-government protest on Monday, a holiday to mark the anniversary of Israel's return to Egypt in 1982 the Sinai Peninsula.
A petition titled "Egypt is not for sale," which calls for a reversal of the decision on the islands and supports the protests, was signed by more than 300 Egyptian novelists, lawyers and activists, and several calls have been made on social media for Monday's demonstrations to converge on Tahrir Square, epicenter of the 2011 revolt against Mubarak.
Since Friday, security troops have been out in force, with armored personnel carriers stationed at key traffic areas.
Also Sunday, Interior Minister Magdy Abdel-Ghaffar met with officials to review preparations to confront any attempts to "break the law," the ministry said in a statement.
It quoted Abdel-Ghaffar as saying that the security apparatus would be ready to address any action that could disturb public security with "the utmost firmness and decisiveness," urging citizens to ignore calls to create chaos and drive a wedge between the people and police.