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Mursi talks decree

General view of tents in Tahrir square as protesters and activists continue with their sit-in, in Cairo, yesterday. More than 500 people have been injured in protests since Friday.

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi negotiated with senior judges on Monday 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 justice minister said he believed Mursi would agree with Egypt’s highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers. Mursi’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.”

Mursi’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.

Mursi’s 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.

“President Mursi is very optimistic that Egyptians will overcome this challenge as they have overcome other challenges,” presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters, shortly before the president started his meeting with members of Egypt’s highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council.

Banners in Tahrir called for dissolving the assembly drawing up a constitution, an Islamist-dominated body Mursi made immune from legal challenge. Many liberals and others have walked out of the assembly saying their voices were not being heard. (Reuters)

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