Egypt's army gave the Muslim Brotherhood until Saturday afternoon to sign up to political reconciliation, a military official said on Thursday, after the army issued a veiled threat to use tougher tactics against the group.
"We will not initiate any move, but will definitely react harshly against any calls for violence or black terrorism from Brotherhood leaders or their supporters. We pledge to protect peaceful protesters regardless of their affiliation," the official said, saying they had 48-hours to comply.
Earlier, the army signalled it would change its strategy for dealing with "violence and terrorism" after protests it has called on Friday. In a statement posted on a Facebook page affiliated to the army command, the military said it was ready to turn its guns on anyone involved in either.
Military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday called for mass rallies today to give him a mandate to tackle surging violence, fanning fears within Morsi's Muslim brotherhood of a military crackdown.
The Brotherhood and allied Islamist groups had denounced Sisi's call as "an announcement of civil war" and said they would press on with their own demonstrations.
Egypt's military yesterday insisted it was not targeting backers of ousted president Mohamed Morsi in calling for a mass rally to counter 'terrorism', amid outrage from Islamist protesters and concern in Washington.
The military statement came after the chief of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood defiantly called for a "stand" against the coup that toppled the president, with Islamists planning a protest today to rival the army's call.
Police said they were planning largescale reinforcements to secure today's rallies, amid fears they will turn into a massive showdown in the streets between Islamists demanding Morsi's reinstatement and an array of opponents, including the military.
The fugitive leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, Mohamed Badie, urged Egyptians to peacefully make a "stand for freedom and legitimacy, and against the bloody coup," in a statement yesterday.
The United States said on Wednesday it was "very concerned" by military chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi's call for a rally to justify a crackdown on what he called "terrorism and violence."
After Sisi's comments, Washington, which has close ties with Egypt's military, announced it would suspend a delivery of F-16 warplanes.
The decision appears to underscore deepening US concern about the course taken by the Arab world's most populous country, reeling from violent street clashes following Mursi's July 3 overthrow.