Cairo: Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi dismissed calls for early presidential elections as attackers torched the Cairo campaign headquarters of a youth group petitioning for his removal from office.
The developments come as tensions rise ahead of June 30, when Morsi marks one year in power as Egypt's first freely elected president following the 2011 uprising that toppled autocrat Hosni Mubarak.
In a four-page interview with the state-run Al-Ahram daily ahead of the anniversary, Morsi said demands for an early presidential vote are both "absurd and illegal."
He also warned against violence during upcoming demonstrations, which the opposition plans for the anniversary to demand his ouster.
"Violating the law, the use of violence or inciting for it are unacceptable and will not be permitted," Morsi told the paper today. "We are in a country with a constitution and law. We had free and fair elections and the talk about early presidential elections is absurd and illegal."
The lengthy interview was a throwback to Mubarak's era when the paper served as a government mouthpiece, glorifying the regime's perceived successes and never challenging authorities.
The drive, known as "Tamarod" or "Rebel" in Arabic, is helping galvanise an opposition that has long been in disarray and demoralised. So far, the volunteers say they have collected about 7 million signatures.
They hope for 15 million, believing the sheer number could push Morsi out of office by June 30. That's 2 million more than the number of votes Morsi garnered in last year's presidential election, which he won with 52 per cent of the votes. Egypt's population is around 90 million.