Egypt's Minister of Defence has ruled out a return of the army to the streets in a military coup against President Mohamed Morsi. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi dismissed the calls from some political groups for such a move. He called for "understanding" and warned that the alternative could be "extremely dangerous".
Speaking at a major military training exercise in Egypt's Central Region on Saturday, the minister said, "The army is like a fire, and we should not play with fire." If a coup did take place, he said, it would take 30 or 40 years before Egypt could be spoken of again.
"In any case," he stressed, "the military will not revolt against the president; no one will replace or remove another, and no one should think that the army is the solution." People should not allow their anger to get the better of them, he insisted. "Standing in a queue for 10 or 15 minutes to cast a ballot is better than destroying the country." Al-Sisi told the audience of military personnel that he does not wish to meet his Maker with the blood of the Egyptian people on his hands.
In response to the accusation that he is merely flirting with the Egyptians, Minister Al-Sisi was clear: "I would cut off our hands if they touch an Egyptian." He did point out, however, that he has no problems about speaking kindly to Egyptian citizens: "Bullying is not for us, it is used by thugs and criminals."
Many of Mohamed Morsi's critics continue to call on the army to intervene to remove the President, who is from the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamic movement won last year's presidential election. In 2011, the army sided with the people's revolution to topple Hosni Mubarak.