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.

 

New UN envoy looks to revive talks as battles intensify across Yemen

Civilian massacre in Syria northwestern town of Jisr al-Shughur

Abbas condemns Israel killing of two young Palestinians in separate incidents

Will Somalia Shebab choose Qaeda or Islamic State?

Closure of key trade route deals harsh blow to Jordan economy

‘Islamic State’ suicide bombers target Iraq-Jordan crossing

Four Egypt Islamists killed while preparing bombs

Extremist groups capture last major regime holdout in northwest Syria

‘Islamic State’ kills Iraq senior officers in Anbar province

Deadly fighting rages in Yemen southern towns

Entrepreneurs encourage people to ‘buy Syrian’

Over 100 children killed in Yemen since March 26

Libya militia alliance 'carries out air raids' against IS

UN 'confident' rebels will sign Mali peace deal

Petraeus gets two years probation for info leak

Iranian ships turn back from Yemen

Palestinians mourn as Jews celebrate

UN chief set to appoint Mauritanian diplomat as Yemen envoy

Obama takes 'full responsibility' for deaths of Qaeda hostages in US operation

Turkey warns Austria over decision to condemn ‘Armenian genocide’

Yemen conflict poses dangers across Gulf of Aden

Hopes for final deal on second day of Iran nuclear talks in Vienna

Security tightened at Saudi shopping malls

US returns stolen Egypt artifacts

EU mulls military action against human traffickers in Libya

Libyan journalist shot dead in Benghazi

Arms experts warn of 'Faustian bargain' with Iran

Fresh Saudi-led air strikes target Yemen rebels

Rebel-IS clashes in Syria kill at least 42 fighters in 24 hours

Who’s more dangerous: Jihadists who left their countries or those staying at home?

France foils 'imminent' attack by jihadist sympathiser

Algeria army kills three armed Islamists west of capital

Israel removes Palestinian teen's name from memorial wall

Egyptian businessman testifies at Al-Jazeera retrial

Kenya asks donors to save world’s largest refugee camp

Sanctions, possible Congress intervention to dominate fresh nuclear talks

Arab army chiefs kick off work on building regional force

One year after agreement, Palestinian reconciliation hits rock bottom

Arab coalition resumes airstrikes against Huthi rebels

UN member states urged to protect Iraqi cultural sites

London mulls ways to help Europe's refugee crisis

Finalising of Iran nuclear deal set to begin

Saudi–led coalition declares end to Yemen air war

Palestine teenager inscribed on Israel memorial wall

Deadly attack targets busy restaurant in Somalia capital