Middle East

Egyptian army chief calls for street protests

Media captionAbdel Fattah al-Sisi, speaking on state TV: "I call on all Egyptians to take to the street"

Egypt's army chief has called for demonstrations on Friday to give the military a mandate to confront "violence and potential terrorism".

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he was not calling for public unrest and wanted national reconciliation.

The army removed President Mohammed Morsi from power on 3 July, triggering huge street protests by his supporters.

In another development on Wednesday, the US said it was delaying the sale of four F-16 military jets to Egypt.

Washington has said it is examining whether the military takeover constitutes a coup, as US law prohibits the sending of aid to any country whose elected leader is deposed by a military coup.

The Muslim Brotherhood and other supporters of Mr Morsi say they will go ahead with their own rallies on Friday, despite General Sisi's statement.

Senior Brotherhood figure Mohamed el-Beltagy said Gen Sisi was "calling for a civil war... to protect this military coup".

"He is proving that he is the actual ruler of the country, and that the president, his vice president and the government do not hold any power," he added.

Army 'united'

In a speech at a military graduation ceremony, which was broadcast on television, Gen Sisi said: "I urge the people to take to the streets this coming Friday to prove their will and give me, the army and police, a mandate to confront possible violence and terrorism."

"So that in case there was a resort to violence and terrorism, the army would have a mandate to confront this."

Our correspondent says that Gen Sisi's call showed who was really in charge in Egypt - not the interim president picked by the military, Adly Mahmud Mansour, but the military itself.

He says it may be a sign of frustration that protests against the interim government are still going on.

It also followed an overnight bomb attack on a police station in Mansoura, 110 km (68 miles) north of Cairo, that killed one person and wounded two dozen others.

A government spokesman condemned it as a terrorist attack.

Media captionMohamed el-Beltagy, Muslim Brotherhood: "Abdel Fattah al-Sisi... is now calling for a civil war himself "

In Cairo, two people were reported to have been killed in clashes at a pro-Morsi demonstration overnight. That followed nine deaths in the city on Tuesday.

Gen Sisi, who is also the defence minister in the new government, rejected rumours about divisions within the army ranks. "I swear by God that the Egyptian army is united," he said.

Referring to the army's intervention to remove Mr Morsi early this month, Gen Sisi said: "I urged the former president to be a president for all Egyptians".

And, recalling the 2012 presidential election when Mr Morsi was voted into office, he said that he had advised Islamists not to field a presidential candidate - but that they had ignored him.