Egypt’s leader warns public against unrest

Declares it does more damage to nation’s economy

Efforts should be focused on ‘‘production, work, seriousness, and effort,’’ said Mohammed Morsi, in an address before the newly convened upper house of Parliament on Saturday.
Efforts should be focused on ‘‘production, work, seriousness, and effort,’’ said Mohammed Morsi, in an address before the newly convened upper house of Parliament on Saturday.

CAIRO — Egypt’s Islamist president warned against any unrest that could harm the drive to repair the country’s battered economy in his first address before the newly convened upper house of Parliament on Saturday, urging the opposition to work with his government.

In the nationally televised speech, Mohammed Morsi said the nation’s efforts should be focused on ‘‘production, work, seriousness, and effort,’’ now that a new constitution had come into effect this past week. He blamed protests and violence this past month for further damaging an economy already in crisis since the fall of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

Morsi denounced those he said were spreading panic about Egypt’s economy, saying that the country will ‘‘not go bankrupt’’ and that its banks were healthy, after a rush on dollars the past week.


He presented the country’s foreign currency reserves, currently at $15 billion, as up slightly from last year, though he acknowledged they were down dramatically from around $36 billion in 2010.

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Soon after Morsi’s speech, the Central Bank of Egypt warned that foreign reserves were at a ‘‘critical’’ minimum level — that is, the minimum for meeting obligations like international debt and covering the costs of strategic imports. Currency reserves have been sliding as foreign investment and tourism dried up amid the turmoil of the uprising against Mubarak two years ago.

Citing the economy, Morsi pressed the opposition to drop its refusals to deal with his government, repeating his invitation for it to join a national dialogue he has been holding — and adding a warning that appeared directed at the opposition not to turn to protests that might cause unrest.

All sides must ‘‘realize the needs of the moment’’ and work only through ‘‘mature democracy while avoiding violence,’’ he told the 270-member Shura Council. ‘‘We condemn and reject all forms of violence by individuals, groups, institutions, and even from the nation and its government. This is completely rejected.’’

Last month, the largely secular and liberal opposition launched a wave of protests against decrees by Morsi grabbing new powers — since revoked — and against the draft constitution that his Islamist allies rammed through to finalization and put to a referendum, completed a week ago.


In response, Islamists also launched mass rallies, and the two sides erupted into violence several times. The worst violence came in clashes outside the presidential palace that killed 10 people, and though it was sparked when Islamists attacked a sit-in, Morsi’s allies have blamed the opposition.

Opponents fear that Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, are monopolizing rule and that the new constitution will consecrate their power.

The charter allows for a stronger implementation of Islamic law, or Shariah, than in the past and includes provisions that could limit many civil rights and freedoms of minorities. It was passed by 64 percent in the referendum, though turnout was only around 33 percent.

Under the new constitution, the upper house of Parliament, which normally has few powers, is now serving as the law-making body until a new legislating lower house is chosen in national elections expected within a few months. The upper house, called the Shura Council, has an overwhelming Islamist majority, mainly from Morsi’s Brotherhood and the allied ultraconservative Salafis.

Morsi said he aimed to give all factions a voice. The dialogue is supposed to draw up key legislation to put before Parliament, including a law organizing the parliamentary elections, and decide other issues.


The opposition has dismissed the dialogue initiative as disingenuous, and so far mainly Islamists are participating, along with a few small liberal parties.

Ahmed Maher, head of the activist April 6 Movement that helped engineer last year’s uprising against Mubarak, said Morsi’s speech offered nothing new beyond his acknowledgement of Egypt’s economic woes.

He also said he would not enter into talks again with the president until the Brotherhood ‘‘gives up some of their arrogance and stubbornness.’’