Anti-Morsi rally delivers 'final ultimatum'
Tens of thousands of protesters took to the streets across Egypt yesterday demanding that President Mohamed Morsi reverse his assumption of sweeping powers and postpone the mid-December referendum on the disputed constitution.
Clashes erupted at numerous locations when protesters encountered fundamentalists loyal to Mr Morsi or attempted to storm offices of the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement from which he hails.
The president, who angered opponents on Thursday by refusing to meet their conditions for dialogue, attended Friday prayers at the Republican Guards’ mosque near the presidential palace in Cairo as last week he was denounced by members of the congregation at the mosque near his home.
Thousands of opposition demonstrators rallied in Cairo outside the presidential palace and in Tahrir Square, while several thousand fundamentalists gathered at al-Azhar mosque in the old city for the funeral of three of their number slain during clashes earlier in the week.
Over the barricades
Opposition activists at the palace cut the razor wire, clambered over barricades erected by the Republican Guard and rushed between tanks along the broad avenue to the palace gates, challenging guardsmen deployed to prevent them from reaching the palace, which houses presidential offices.
Cheering and banging on drums, the protesters sang “The revolution is back again”. Guardsmen did nothing to stop them, as commanders had pledged not to interfere in peaceful demonstrations.
The opposition dubbed the mass action the “Friday of the final ultimatum”. They called on Mr Morsi to “leave” and chanted “The people want the end of the regime,” the slogan of the uprising that ousted former president Hosni Mubarak.
Fundamentalist preachers at al-Azhar mosque took their cue from Mr Morsi’s televised address on Thursday and portrayed their rivals as “feloul”, remnants of the Mubarak regime, and foreign agents.
Muslim Brotherhood supreme guide Mohamed Badie said movement members would defend the president’s legitimacy with their blood. Mourners branded opponents godless “traitors” and shouted, “Bread! Freedom! Islamic law!”
Although the two sides remain locked in confrontation, Mr Morsi had invited the opposition to hold talks today. But the opposition refuses to meet him until he reverses his November 22nd decree granting himself sweeping powers and postpones the December 15th vote on the constitutional amendment, which opponents argue discriminates against Christians and women and accords too much power to clerics and the military.
The National Salvation Front, a coalition of liberal and leftist groups headed by Nobel laureate Mohamed El-Baradei, said there was no point in talking as Mr Morsi had presented them with a fait accompli. He accused the Brotherhood of instigating Wednesday’s riots that killed seven and injured 700.
“After the bloodshed, we will not shake hands with those who killed new martyrs,” Hamdeen Sabahi, a leading Front member and former presidential candidate, told demonstrators.
President Barack Obama called Mr Morsi to convey his concern over the clashes. He urged him to engage in unconditional talks with his opponents.