News Column

Egypt Opposition Spurns Morsi Talks, Continues Protests

Dec. 7, 2012

Egypt's opposition groups on Friday rejected a call by Islamist President Mohammed Morsi for talks on defusing a crisis sparked by his decree to expand his powers and call for a referendum on a controversial draft constitution.

"The presidency's failure to respond to the people's demands and protests has slammed the door on any bid for dialogue," said the National Salvation Front, an opposition alliance led by Nobel Peace laureate Mohammed ElBaradei and former Arab League chief Amr Moussa.

ElBaradei dismissed Morsi's call as lacking the "alphabets of the true dialogue."

In a televised address late Thursday, Morsi said his decree, making all his decisions immune to judicial review, would be cancelled after a referendum on a new constitution on December 15, regardless of the result of the vote.

However, late Friday Ahram online reported that expatriate voting was to be postponed from December 8 to December 12.

It quoted Hossam Ali Ahmed, secretary-general of the Ghad El-Thawra Party saying on Twitter that "the presidential office has agreed to postpone the expatriate voting processions ... which was the party's condition before accepting negotiations with President Morsi."

Morsi has called on opposition groups to meet with him on Saturday for a "comprehensive national dialogue" to find a way out of the crisis and chart the way forward.

"We will not put our hands in the hands of those responsible for killing the Egyptian people," Hamdeen Sabahi, an opposition leader, told Morsi's opponents in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Sabahi was referring to deadly clashes that occurred on Wednesday between opponents and backers of the Islamist president outside the presidential palace.

A total of five people were killed and 775 injured in the violence, according to government officials.

The opposition has repeatedly demanded Morsi's decree be rescinded and the vote on the draft charter be suspended before any talks can take place.

Protestors made their way late Friday through wired fences outside the presidential palace in Cairo as others tried to climb the gate after security guards withdrew its forces, Arab Media reported.

Thousands of protestors had gathered earlier in front of the palace in Cairo to put an end to what they described "as dictatorial powers" of President Morsi, and to postpone the vote on a controversial new constitution.

In Tahrir Square, the birthplace of a popular revolt that toppled Hosny Mubarak almost two years ago, protesters carried photos of Morsi stained with blood.

"Down with Morsi Mubarak," chanted the protesters, implying that Morsi is a dictator as much as Mubarak was.

The opposition has accused Morsi's supporters of attacking opponents who were camping outside the presidential palace on Wednesday.

The violence was Egypt's worst since Morsi took office in June.

Islamists Friday rallied outside the Media City near Cairo to show support for Morsi. They chanted slogans against media outlets whom they accused of fostering hostility to the Islamist leader.

Earlier in the day, angry Islamists attended a funeral service for three followers of the Muslim Brotherhood, who had been killed in clashes on Wednesday.

The mourners, gathering at the main Cairo Al Azhar Mosque, chanted: "With our soul and blood, we defend you, Islam."

Clashes erupted Friday between Morsi's backers and opponents in the Nile Delta provinces of Kafr al-Sheikh and Beheira, the state-run newspaper Al Ahram reported on its website.

At least 20 people were wounded in the violence, it said.

Morsi's decisions have exposed deep rifts in Egypt and sparked attacks on offices of the Muslim Brotherhood in several cities.

The opposition says that the new constitution, drafted by an Islamist-led constituent assembly, ignores fundamental political and other freedoms and sidelines women.

UN human rights chief Navi Pillay Friday cited a long list of "very worrying" elements in Egypt's draft charter.

Among them, the text does not explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender, religion and origin, Pillay said in Geneva.

Pillay said that while the new law would guarantee some human rights, "there are also some very worrying omissions and ambiguities, and in some areas the protections in it are even weaker than the 1971 constitution it is supposed to replace."

Morsi has promised that if the draft document is voted down, he would set up a new assembly to draw up a new constitutional draft.



Source: Copyright 2012 dpa Deutsche Presse-Agentur GmbH


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