Morsi meets top judges over crisis
The protesters are worried that Mr Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood aims to dominate the post-Mubarak era after winning the first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections this year.
A deal with a judiciary dominated by Mubarak-era judges, which Mr Morsi has pledged to reform, may not placate them.
A group of lawyers and activists has also challenged Mr Morsi's decree in an administrative court, which said it would hold its first hearing on December 4th. Other decisions by Mr Morsi have faced similar legal challenges brought to court by opponents.
Banners in Tahrir called for dissolving the assembly drawing up a constitution, an Islamist-dominated body Mr Morsi made immune from legal challenge. Many liberals and others have walked out of the assembly saying their voices were not being heard.
Only once a constitution is written can a new parliamentary election be held. Until then, legislative and executive power remains in Mr Morsi's hands, and Thursday's decree puts his decisions above judicial oversight.
One Muslim Brotherhood member was killed and 60 people were hurt yesterday in an attack on the main office of the Brotherhood in the Egyptian Nile Delta town of Damanhour, the website of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party said.
The party's offices have also been attacked in other cities.
One politician said the scale of the crisis could push opponents towards a deal to avoid a further escalation. Mr Morsi's opponents have called for a big demonstration tomorrow.
"I am very cautiously optimistic because the consequences are quite, quite serious, the most serious they have been since the revolution," said Mona Makram Ebeid, former member of parliament and prominent figure in Egyptian politics.
Mr Morsi's office repeated assurances that the steps would be temporary, and said he wanted dialogue with political groups to find "common ground" over what should go into the constitution.
Talks with Mr Morsi have been rejected by members of a National Salvation Front, a new opposition coalition that brings together liberal, leftist and other politicians and parties, who until Mr Morsi's decree had been a fractious bunch struggling to unite.
"There is no room for dialogue when a dictator imposes the most oppressive, abhorrent measures and then says 'let us split the difference'," prominent opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei said on Saturday. He has said he expected to act as the Front's coordinator.
The military has stayed out of the crisis after leading Egypt through a messy 16-month transition to a presidential election in June. Analysts say Morsi neutralised the army when he sacked top generals in August, appointing a new generation who now owe their advancement to the Islamist president.
Though the military still wields influence through business interests and a security role, it is out of frontline politics.
Egypt had hoped to stop the economic rot by signing an initial deal last week for a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. As well as tumbling share prices, yields at a Sunday treasury bill auction rose, putting even more pressure on the government that faces a crushing budget deficit.