Egypt's opposition rejects offer of dialogue by Morsi


Thousands of protesters ignored a curfew yesterday to take to the streets in cities along the Suez canal, defying a state of emergency imposed by President Mohamed Morsi to end days of violence that has killed at least 51 people.

One man was killed in violence last night in Port Said and another was shot dead earlier in Cairo as a wave of violence raged on, unleashed last week on the eve of the two-year anniversary of the popular revolt that brought down Hosni Mubarak.

Egypt’s main opposition coalition had earlier yesterday rejected the president’s invitation for dialogue, deepening polarisation between secularists and Muslim fundamentalists in the strife-torn country.

The 10-faction National Salvation Front’s spokesman, Mohamed ElBaradei, said: “Without accepting his responsibility as president for the latest bloody events, promising to form a government of national salvation and commissioning a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time.”

Unless these conditions are met, the Front will not engage in talks and will call for fresh protests on Friday, he said.

Morsi accused

The April 6th Youth Movement, the vanguard of the uprising, accused Mr Morsi of failing to govern the country and ignoring the advice given to him at previous meetings.

The political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, to which Mr Morsi belonged before assuming the presidency, the ultra-orthodox Salafi Noor party, and Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a defected member of the Brotherhood, attended the gathering.

Freedom and Justice official Gamal Tag called on the Salvation Front to recognise the “defining moment” and “put the interest of the nation above all”. The fundamentalist-dominated upper house of parliament endorsed a law empowering the military to deploy in restive cities and arrest and try civilians as defiant protesters continued to skirmish with security forces in Cairo.

Riot police fired tear gas at hundreds of stone-throwing youths in Tahrir Square and along the Nile. A pedestrian walking on the edge of the square was shot dead, tear gas flooded a metro station and fires were set in the Mugamma, the administration block on one side of the square.

The street battles occurred as thousands of Egyptians braved bullets, tear gas and water cannon as they marched in solid phalanxes toward Tahrir Square, the crucible of Egypt’s unfinished revolution. That night police withdrew from the streets, leaving Tahrir in control of the uprising and compelling citizens to form neighbourhood watch groups.

To commemorate the occasion, thousands also rallied in Alexandria, chanting, “Down, down with Morsi! Leave, we are poor people.”

Port Said was tense as thousands attended funerals for six people killed on Sunday and 44 killed on Saturday. – (Additional reporting: agencies)