Morsi cancels controversial "sweeping powers" decree

Morsi cancels controversial "sweeping powers" decree

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi late Saturday annulled a controversial decree that had granted him sweeping powers, in a bid to ease tensions that have gripped the country over the past week, dpa reported.

Morsi issued a new decree to cancel his November 22 move, which had given the president's decisions immunity to judicial review, Islamist politician Mohamed Selim al-Awa told a press conference in Cairo.

However, a referendum on a draft constitution would go ahead as planned on December 15, al-Awa said, adding that constitutionally Morsi was unable to change the date.

Thousands of protesters took to the streets over the past two weeks to rally against both Morsi's decree and the new constitution, drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly.

Supporters and opponents of the president had clashed Wednesday in front of the presidential palace. The violence, the worst since Morsi became Egypt's first elected Islamist in June, killed at least seven and injured 775.

Al-Awa was among some 40 people invited by Morsi after the violence for a long dialogue session with the president and his deputy. Most of the attendees were Islamists.

Egypt's main opposition alliance, the National Salvation Front, led by prominent dissident Mohammed al-Baradei, has spurned Morsi's call for talks, demanding instead he suspend the December 15 referendum.

The opposition said the constitution ignores freedom and women's rights.

Earlier, the alliance called for daily street protests to continue until Morsi acceded to demands to give up the expanded powers and drop the referendum on the constitution.

"We call on Egyptian youth to hold peaceful demonstrations and sit-ins in all of Egypt's squares until our demands are met," one of the group's leaders, Mohamed Abul-Ghar, said.

"The will of the people is turning toward a general strike," he added.

The Egyptian army Saturday warned that different political powers will lead Egypt "into a dark tunnel" if they fail to solve the crisis.

"Dialogue is the best and only method to reach a consensus serving the interests of the nation and citizens," the army said in a statement.

The reaction is the first from the powerful military since the crisis erupted last month. The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces ruled Egypt for more than a year after a popular uprising forced Hosny Mubarak out of power in February 2011.

A vote for Egyptians abroad on the draft constitution will be held on Wednesday, after it was postponed from Saturday.

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