Morsi meets top judges over crisis
Egypt's president agreed today that only his decisions related to "sovereign" matters would be protected from judicial review, his spokesman said, indicating he had accepted a judiciary-proposed compromise to try to defuse a crisis.
Mohamed Morsi had enraged opponents with a decree on Thursday that expanded his powers and put any decision he took until parliament was in place beyond legal oversight. Senior judges proposed he limit that to "sovereign matters".
Mr Morsi negotiated with senior judges today to try to defuse a crisis over his seizure of new powers which set off violent protests reminiscent of an uprising last year that led to the rise of his Islamist movement.
"The president said he had the utmost respect for the judicial authority and its members," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters. He added that regarding the issue of immunity for presidential decisions "what is intended is those that are linked to matters of sovereignty".
The justice minister said he believed Mr Morsi would agree with Egypt's highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers. Mr Morsi's spokesman said the president was "very optimistic Egyptians would overcome the crisis".
But the protesters, some camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square, have said only retracting the decree will satisfy them, a sign of the deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilising Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.
"There is no use amending the decree," said Tarek Ahmed (26), a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir, where tents covered the central traffic circle. "It must be scrapped."
One person has been killed and about 370 injured in clashes between police and protesters since Mr Morsi issued the decree on Thursday shielding his decisions from judicial review, emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas.
US secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke with Egyptian foreign minister Mohamed Kamel Amr today to underscore US hopes that the political crisis can be resolved in a democratic manner, her department said.
Ms Clinton reiterated US concerns about Mr Morsi's decision to assume sweeping powers and checked in on the progress of discussions between Mr Morsi and senior judges on the way forward, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told a news briefing.
"The secretary underscored the importance of settling these disputes in a democratic manner, so we look forward to seeing the outcome of that [discussion]," Ms Nuland said.
"We are encouraged that the various important stakeholders in Egypt are now talking to each other, (and) that President Morsi is consulting on the way forward, but we're not going to prejudge where that is going to go."
Mr Morsi's political opponents have accused him of behaving like a dictator and the West has voiced its concern, worried by more turbulence in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel and lies at the heart of the Arab Spring.
The administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.