Egypt army chief warns of 'state collapse'

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iol pic afr egypt_unrest REUTERS Members of the Egyptian Army keep guard near burnt vehicles in front of a police station, which was stormed into and set on fire by protesters, in the city of Suez.

Cairo - Defence minister and military chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi warned on Tuesday that the political crisis rocking Egypt could lead to the collapse of the state, as he vowed to protect the country's vital infrastructure, notably the Suez Canal.

Failure to resolve the situation “could lead to grave repercussions if the political forces do not act” to tackle it, Sissi said in on his Facebook page.

“The continuing conflict between political forces and their differences concerning the management of the country could lead to a collapse of the state and threaten future generations,” he said in extracts of a speech to students at a military academy.

Sissi further warned that the political, economic, social and security problems facing Egypt constitute “a threat to the country's security and stability”.

He stressed that “the attempts to undermine the stability of state institutions is a dangerous thing that harms national security and the future of the country,” but said “the army will remain strong... as a pillar of the state's foundations.”

Fifty-two people have died in five days of violence that erupted on Thursday night, as the country marked the second anniversary of the start of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

A curfew has been imposed in three provinces - Port Said, Ismailiya and Suez.

The bloodiest clashes and most of the deaths have occurred in Port Said, Rioting broke out on Saturday after 21 supporters of a local football club were sentenced to death for their roles in a deadly football riot last year.

Egypt has already deployed troops to Port Said and Suez provinces, which lie at each end of the vital Suez Canal.

“The deployment of the army in Port Said and Suez aims to protect strategic infrastructure, especially the Suez Canal, which we will not allow to be harmed,” Sissi said, adding that the army was to assist interior ministry forces.

But he said the army's task was difficult. One the one had it did “not want to confront Egyptian citizens who have a right to protest” but, on the other, it “has to protect vital institutions.”

“That is why protests must be peaceful.” - AFP

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