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.

 

5 killed in string of suicide bombings in Lebanon

Netanyahu lauds Israel’s deal with Turkey

Iraq forces take ISIS last positions in Fallujah

One year on, Tunisia holds minute silence for beach massacre victims

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Dozens killed as clashes intensify in Yemen

Sarraj says only united military can defeat ISIS in Libya

Jordan court charges 21 people with 'terrorism'

Iran conceals heated military standoff in Kurdish region

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders

Turkish prosecutors demand 14 years for activists

Final push for votes as EU leaders warn over Brexit

Egypt government appeals court block on islands’ transfer to Saudis

Heat, long fasting days take their toll on Cairo residents

Assad names Imad Khamis as new Prime Minister

Turkey wants Britain to stay in EU 'under any circumstances'

EU to open new membership talks with Turkey