Cairo, Dec 8: Amid a lingering political crisis in Egypt, an uneasy calm prevailed on the streets here after massive overnight protests against a constitutional decree that gave sweeping powers to President Mohammed Mursi.
There was a notable increase in the number of protesters' tents in the vicinity of the presidential palace today.
The protesters said that they would not end their sit-in till the annulment of the constitutional declaration and referendum on new constitution.
Overnight, more than 10,000 Egyptian opposition protesters broke through an army barricade to march on the presidential palace, demanding Mursi to call off the controversial constitutional referendum that sparked the worst violence since he assumed power in June.
Soldiers, however, prevented the protesters from nearing the presidential palace's main gate. The crowd gradually reduced to a hard core of protesters.
Earlier yesterday, supporters of Mursi held their own march in Cairo. There was no repeat yesterday of the violent clashes that took place on Wednesday between the two sides when seven people died and more than 640 were hurt.
President Mursi was set to issue a law that will give judicial and protective powers to the military, according to the state-run Al-Ahram.
Drafted with the participation of army leaders, the law will task the armed forces with maintaining security and protecting vital installations in the state, until a new constitution takes effect and legitimate parliamentary elections are held.
President Mursi today also held a meeting with President of the UN General Assembly Vuk Jeremic at the Ittihadiya presidential palace. Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr attended the meeting, state-run MENA news agency reported.
The two sides are scheduled to review the ongoing incidents in Egypt, the current situation in the region, the Syrian file, in addition to the peace process between Palestinians and Israelis after elevating Palestine's UN status from “non-member observer entity” to “non-member observer state”.
Protesters were arriving in the iconic Tahrir Square since early morning to prepare for mass rallies against Mursi, demanding that the President must roll back his edict granting himself expanded powers and must postpone the scheduled December 15 referendum on constitution. They say the new draft constitution does not adequately represent or protect all Egyptians.
Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said yesterday that President Mursi is prepared to delay the referendum on the draft constitution on the condition that his decision cannot be challenged in a court of law.
“We are ruled by the article (in the constitutional declaration), which compels the president to put a draft of the constitution to referendum in a period not exceeding fifteen days,” Mekky was quoted by Al-Masry Al-Youm as saying.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Constitutional Court dismissed reports that its counsellors are currently meeting to look into procedures to oust President Mursi. Such reports are baseless and aim to drag the court into political battles, court spokesman Counsellor Maher Sami said.
He pointed out that the court does not have the competence to look into such procedures, let alone that all the court sessions have been suspended due to the protests outside the court that hindered judges from assuming their work.
Egypt's military, in its first statement since street protests against Mursi erupted more than two weeks ago, has said it “supports dialogue” to resolve the political crisis dividing the nation.
“The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens,” a statement from the spokesperson of the armed forces was quoted by Al-Jazeera as saying. “The opposite of that will take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous results,” he added.
The capital Cairo and other cities have been rocked by violent protests since November 22, when Mursi issued a decree awarding himself sweeping powers that put him above the law.
The opposition fears Mursi's “power grab” and referendum aim to push the country towards a more Islamic state.