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Egypt army call signals possible crackdown

CAIRO -- The military chief who ousted Egypt's elected president called on the public yesterday to take to the streets to give him and the police a mandate to tackle "violence and terrorism," in an address that pointed to a possible move against supporters of the Islamist leader.

The call by Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, made in a speech to a graduation ceremony for military cadets, underlined that the military chief is the source of real power in Egypt despite the creation of a civilian government after the July 3 coup that removed Mohammed Morsi.

His comments appeared designed to secure a public cover for what could be a move to dismantle sit-in camps by Morsi's supporters in Cairo and elsewhere, as well as a campaign against Islamic radicals that have stepped up attacks on security forces in Sinai. El-Sissi called for a mass turnout in rallies Friday to give him a "mandate" to do what is "necessary" to stop bloodshed.

A coalition of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and allied factions denounced his speech, calling it an "open invitation" to civil war. Their coalition plans protests and marches of its own on Friday, raising the potential for violence between the two camps.

El-Sissi removed Morsi after four days of protests by millions of Egyptians demanding his ouster after a year in office, and the military says its goal is to set the country on a path to democracy. But the move has set top ally Washington in an uncomfortable position: The United States has implicitly accepted Morsi's removal, even while the Obama administration reviews whether it constitutes a military coup, which under U.S. law would require a shut-off of $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt's army.

Yesterday, Washington announced it is delaying delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as it conducts the review, the first direct U.S. action in response to the ouster. Still, officials cautioned they had not yet decided whether to suspend military aid more broadly. -- AP

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