First Published: 2012-12-08

 

Muslim Brotherhood monologue: Crisis lingers in Egypt

 

Opposition rebuffs Morsi’s call for talks, saying dialogue could only happen if he agrees to repeal decree, postpone referendum.

 

Middle East Online

By John Davison - CAIRO

Morsi offers talks but no concessions

Calm was restored to Egypt on Saturday, after a mass overnight protest against President Mohamed Morsi ended peacefully, but the underlying political crisis dividing the country persisted.

More than 100 protesters remained outside the presidential palace in Cairo, watched over by soldiers who used tanks and barbed wire to block roads leading to the compound.

Overnight, more than 10,000 people had massed in the palace square in a noisy demonstration, tearing aside a barbed-wire barricade and yelling for Morsi to step down.

The crowd gradually dwindled to a hard core of protesters, repeating a pattern of nightly protests this week that peaked each evening.

But there was no sign of them faltering in their opposition to the Islamist president and the sweeping new powers he decreed for himself last month, or to a controversial draft constitution Morsi is putting to a referendum he has called for December 15.

"I'm ready to die. All these guys are ready to die. I don't want violence but if they try to oppress us, there has to be a stand," said one protester who camped out overnight, Mustafa el-Tabbal, 27.

Although around 2,000 Morsi supporters from the president's Muslim Brotherhood held a rival rally just a few kilometres (miles) away, there was no repeat of the violent clashes between the two sides of Wednesday night. Then, seven people died and more than 640 were hurt.

Since the clashes, Morsi has struck a defiant tone, defending his decree and the referendum.

But his camp has also made some conciliatory gestures to the mainly secular opposition, seen as attempts to de-escalate the confrontation.

Morsi offered to hold talks with the opposition on Saturday, but that was rebuffed by the National Salvation Front coalition ranged against him.

One of the Front's leaders, Mohamed ElBaradei, a former UN atomic agency chief and Nobel Peace laureate, stressed late Friday that dialogue could only happen if Morsi agreed to "repeal the decree" and postpone the referendum.

Vice President Mahmud Mekki said Morsi "could accept to delay the referendum," but only if the opposition guaranteed it would launch no legal challenge to the decision.

Under Egyptian law, a president is compelled to hold a referendum two weeks after formally being delivered its text.

Mekki said early voting for Egyptians overseas that had been scheduled for Saturday had now been pushed back to Wednesday.

And on Saturday, the Cairo prosecutors' office told AFP that all 133 people arrested during Wednesday's clashes had been released.

The state newspaper Al-Ahram said in its Saturday edition that there was "an opening in the constitutional crisis."

The independent newspaper Al-Masry al-Youm, though, headlined that "The protesters held up a 'red card' to the president in front of the presidential palace."

The opposition fears Morsi's "power grab" and referendum aim to push the country towards a more Islamic state, based on the slender mandate he won in a June election.

Their slogans and mobilisation recalled the uprising that toppled Egypt's autocratic leader of 30 years, Hosni Mubarak, early last year.

Morsi's backers in the Muslim Brotherhood, in turn, fear that judiciary, with its many Mubarak-era appointees, is plotting to block the reforms they are trying to push through.

The political crisis has unsettled the United States, which was cautiously warming to Morsi as a foreign policy partner but which has little direct leverage over his domestic issues.

US President Barack Obama this week spoke by telephone to Morsi to express his "deep concern" over the deadly turn of events in Cairo and to advocate dialogue with the opposition.

 

OPEC agrees deal to cut oil output

US Congress overrides Obama's veto of Saudi 9/11 bill

UN Libya envoy warns against ‘political impasse’

Morocco finally adopts Amazigh as official language

Saudi petition seeks 'full' rights for women

Palestinians react to death of Peres

Poverty takes toll in rebel-held Yemen fishing village

Kerry threatens to end negotiations with Russia on Syria

Kuwaiti court scraps petrol price hike

Iraq requests more US troops to take on IS in Mosul

Airstrikes hit hospitals in rebel-held Aleppo

Iran nuclear chief says not worried about Trump

Iranian, Italian ships hold manoeuvres in Strait of Hormuz

Gunmen kill three Egypt policemen, civilian in Sinai

Turkey says 32,000 coup suspects awaiting trial

Paris to host international meeting on Libya

Etihad plane in emergency landing in Abu Dhabi

Struggling Saudi Oger lays off 1,300 staff

Israel ex-PM to serve 27 months for graft

Syrian kids return to school in Manbij

World Bank releases $300 million for Syrian refugees in Jordan

Iranian FM in Ankara for Syria talks

Syrian army retakes rebel-held Aleppo district

Israeli ex-president Peres dies

Oil prices post marginal gains

Russia tries to strongarm US with Aleppo assault

Jordan vows crackdown on online incitement

Assad, Russia press intense Aleppo assault

Iran's Ahmadinejad says will not run for president

Boris Johnson dismisses Erdogan goat poem as 'trivia'

Turkey dismisses 87 spy agency staff over failed coup

Egypt recovers sunken boat, more bodies

Israel's Peres 'fighting for his life'

Bombings kill at least seventeen in Baghdad

Netanyahu chooses diplomacy in US election

Iran sets conditions for joining terror finance taskforce

Who is the destroyer of Timbuktu shrines?

Israel to charge Lieberman party officials in graft probe

Egypt detains owner of capsized migrant vessel

Countless bombings in Baghdad’s Karrada since 2003 US-led invasion

Clinton, Trump clash in fiery first presidential debate

Moroccan gets death threat messages over cartoon posted by killed Jordanian

Saudi king unveils austerity drive

Israel prosecutor general denies going easy on PM

Iran frees Iranian-Canadian academic