Nightly News   |  July 02, 2013

Hours from victory? Celebrations break out in Tahrir Square

The Egyptian army chief has given the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, until Wednesday to reach a deal, or else the military will reportedly dissolve parliament, suspend the constitution and create an interim government with new elections. As of Tuesday night, Morsi has refused to stand down. NBC’s Richard Engel reports.

Share This:

This content comes from Closed Captioning that was broadcast along with this program.

>>> good evening, and here is the situation in egypt tonight. where tahrir square is once again full of protesters, late at night local time . as of now, anything could happen. the new egyptian president , mohammed morsi only in office for a year has now rejected an ultimatum from the military that he give way to the will of the people . the president spoke on television tonight and he's not giving in, nor are the people going away. and now for the second time in recent memory, egypt is facing a big tipping point. we're watching this one unfold. our chief foreign correspondent richard engel is back in cairo once again tonight, just above the protests. richard, good evening.

>> good evening, brian. we are back here in tahrir square. the crowds are very big and as you can see from the laser light show , and the fireworks, the mood in this square is festive. the protesters believe they have mohammed morsi on the ropes, and that he soon could be removed from office. perhaps even by force. hundreds of thousands of egyptians celebrating in tahrir square. believing they are just hours from victory. from ousting this country's first democratically elected president. across town, president morsi also has his who say they won elections fairly and has three years left in his term. there's not much time for compromise. the egyptian army chief has given morsi until tomorrow to reach a deal, or else the military will dissolve parliament, suspend the constitution, and create an interim government until new elections. the army said begin today, it's not interested in a coupe and doesn't want to rule. morsi shows no sign he'll go quietly, and if the army tries to force him out, there could be clashes in the streets. a potentially explosive stand-off. president obama today avoided taking sides.

>> our commitment to egypt has never been around any particular individual or party. our commitment has been to a process.

>> why are the protesters angry? they tell us morsi has been a total failure. the economy in shambles, streets no longer safe. islamic radicals, including the president's party, the muslim brotherhood with too much power.

>> it's only for his brotherhood.

>> he's only supporting the muslim brotherhood ?

>> yes.

>> this is a set back for the muslim brotherhood in egypt and across the middle east . when the arab spring began, it was students that toppled the regime, but islamists that took the power. here now that could be changing. anti-morsi protesters believe the army is with them. and that now is the time to reclaim their revolution after morsi tried to impose political islam on egypt and failed. tonight, brian, president morsi gave an angry speech. he was banging his fists on the podium, waiving his finger. he is the legitimate president of the country. and that the people and the army must respect that, he said if they don't, there could be violence. he said that he is willing to die to defend the legitimacy of the presidency.

>> two things here, richard. i'm glad you mentioned the lasers, between the laser light show and the laser pointers that everyone seems to bring to these demonstrations. they're ubiquitous there. and second, i'm curious, you find the mood of the crowd still jubilant even though he said on television, in effect, no deal, i'm not going?

>> he said that very clearly. it was about a half hour speech, he repeated time after time he is the chosen president. if there is an illegitimate process as he describes it. a coupe, that egypt will enter a dark tunnel and return to the dark days of the past and corruption. in terms of these laser lights they have become a fixture, with people shining them into cameras, on to walls. people in this square are still festive, because they believe the army is with them. they know the muslim brotherhood is powerful, it has a few million supporters, but it doesn't have the heavy weapons and the equipment of the army.

>> all right. it will be very interesting to see what the situation is when we next talk to you at this time tomorrow night. richard engel above tahrir square in egypt tonight.