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Morsy admits to mistakes as Egypt braces for protests

From Journalist Sara Sirghany and CNN's Reza Sayah
July 2, 2013 -- Updated 1448 GMT (2248 HKT)
The Muslim Brotherhood marks the one year anniversary since President Mohamed Morsi was elected, on June 21, in Cairo.
The Muslim Brotherhood marks the one year anniversary since President Mohamed Morsi was elected, on June 21, in Cairo.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • An opposition group is planning mass protests in Egypt on Sunday
  • Protesters are calling for the impeachment of President Mohamed Morsy
  • "Nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals," a dissident group says
  • U.S. citizens are advised to maintain a low profile, the embassy says

Cairo (CNN) -- President Mohamed Morsy marked a year in office by admitting Wednesday to having made mistakes but vowing to correct them.

"I want to tell you, frankly, that I made mistakes in many things, and I was right in several other things," he said in a televised address from the Cairo International Conference Center.

"Mistakes were made, but correction should be done," he said to applause.

Morsy then launched into a defense of his record and a list of plans to improve on it.

He said he had ordered the interior minister to form a unit to combat "thuggery" and terrorism, including the blocking of roads, according to the state-run Ahram Online news agency.

Silver lining for the Egyptian economy
One year on, politics plagues Egypt

He announced the formation of a committee to examine proposed constitutional amendments and invited political parties to submit their proposals as soon as Thursday.

The president further ordered the formation of a "national reconciliation committee" comprising representatives of political parties, the Al-Azhar Mosque, the Coptic Orthodox Church, so-called revolutionary forces and nongovernmental organizations.

The committee, he said, will be charged with promoting "national dialogue" among political factions.

Morsy said he was authorizing government ministers and regional governors to sack any officials found to have contributed to recent crises or shortages.

In response to Egypt's gasoline shortage, which has resulted in long lines outside the stations, the president said any gas station found to be hoarding fuel would lose its license.

Finally, Morsy ordered government ministers and provincial governors to appoint advisers younger than 40 years of age to their respective teams. He stressed that young people -- who are among his fiercest critics -- must assume a greater role in the country's affairs and vowed to lower the unemployment rate from 13% to 8%.

"The youth were never given a chance to play a role in the country, and for that I am sorry," he said. "I will make sure they do soon."

Morsy highlighted his administration's efforts to serve the poor, saying that the monthly minimum wage has risen to 700 Egyptian pounds and "will hopefully" reach 1,500, public sector salaries have nearly doubled and more than 50,000 small-scale farmers have had their loans forgiven.

Morsy's remarks came on the same day that at least one person was killed and 298 were injured when his supporters clashed with protesters in front of provincial security headquarters in Daqahliya province, an official said.

Dr. Khaled Khatib, head of emergency care units in the province, told state-run EgyNews Agency that the injured were taken to hospitals in Mansoura, 120 kilometers (about 75 miles) north of Cairo.

The clashes included conservative Muslims and opponents from the Tamarod -- or "Rebellion" -- campaign, as well as members of leftist parties in Mansoura. The city is a stronghold of the Muslim Brotherhood, in which Morsy once played a leadership role.

Stores and cars were damaged in the clashes. Security forces fired tear gas to disperse the groups.

In the Egyptian Suez Canal city of Port Said, the army reinforced its presence on Wednesday, three days ahead of planned anti-government protests, the state-run Ahram Online news agency reported.

The army has been deployed to key locations in the port city since January, when riots erupted after 21 people were sentenced to death in the Port Said football killings. Morsy announced a state of emergency for the region.

Armored vehicles toured the city's streets on Wednesday afternoon, before parking in front of the governorate headquarters. Residents cheered the forces' presence.

Egypt is bracing for anti-government protests on Sunday, called for by members of the "Rebel" group, who seek to hold snap elections.

The campaign, which has gathered 15 million endorsements, accuses the president of "failing to implement policies to improve the life of ordinary people," citing Egypt's increasingly dire economic situation.

Some Egyptians are calling for the army -- which was in charge of the country for an interim period following the 25 January revolution -- to take over power for a temporary period and appoint a new government, in the event that Morsy resigns.

Morsy was elected in June 2012 after narrowly beating contender and Mubarak regime figure Ahmed Shafiq.

"Since the arrival of (Morsy) to power, the average citizen still has the feeling that nothing has been achieved so far from the revolution goals, which were life in dignity, freedom, social justice and national independence," the Tamarod campaign states. "(Morsy) was a total failure in achieving every single goal, no security has been re-established and no social security realized."

The unrest prompted the U.S. Embassy in Cairo to close to the public on Sunday, which is normally a work day in Egypt.

The Egyptian military has said it would intervene if Morsy's Salafi supporters carry out their threats to break up the protests by force. Salafis are hard-line Islamists who have called for Sharia law to be adopted in the country.

Egypt's Mubarak wins petition but will stay detained

Morsy came to power amid hopes that he could improve the lives of Egyptians after two decades of rule by President Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in 2011.

With Egypt in limbo, schools crumbling

CNN's Hamdi Alkhshali and Ian Lee contributed to this report.

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