CAIRO — Fundamental reforms must be taken quickly in Egypt as unrest and polarization threaten to paralyze the state, President Mohammed Morsi said during a televised address, in which he said he’d made mistakes.
“Polarization has reached a state that endangers our nascent democratic experience and threatens chaos,” Morsi said in a 2 1/2-hour speech that ended after midnight Wednesday. “I took power at a difficult time — at times I was right, at times I was wrong.” Mistakes must be corrected, he said.
Protesters chanted “leave, leave” as they watched the Islamist leader’s address on a screen set up in Cairo’s Tahrir square.
Clashes erupted before the speech in the northern Nile Delta city of Mansoura between Morsi supporters and opponents. One person died, the Health Ministry said. At least 243 were injured, the Middle East News Agency reported, citing Health Ministry official Khalid al-Khatib.
Morsi asked protesters to remain peaceful.
Tensions have been rising as Islamists plan nationwide rallies June 28 in defense of Morsi, two days before opponents hold protests to demand his removal from power. Fuel shortages across the country have led to traffic jams and long lines at gasoline stations. Morsi marks one year in office this month.
“I understand opposition disagreements but I cannot accept the opposition taking part inadvertently in reversing the revolt, aligning itself with enemies of the revolution,” Morsi said. “Our hands are extended to you” to start a dialogue, he said.
Defense Minister Abdelfatah Al-Seesi said Monday the military is prepared to intervene to stop the country’s political crisis from spiraling out of control and that the army is obliged to stop Egypt plunging into a “dark tunnel.”
There is no rift between the presidency and the armed forces, Morsi said.
He urged the Supreme Constitutional Court to expedite its review of Egypt’s election law so the country can vote in a new parliament and speed up reforms.
Morsi said he will form a committee that includes all parties to consider constitutional amendments and refer them to the next parliament for review. He also plans to set up a national reconciliation committee to resolve differences.
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