It’s only temporary, says Morsi Islamist killed

CAIRO, Nov 25, (Agencies): The Egyptian presidency said on Sunday it was committed to engaging “all political forces” to reach common ground on the constitution and stressed the “temporary nature” of a decree expanding Presi-dent Mohamed Morsi’s powers.
“This declaration is deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as other crimes during the previous regime and the transitional period,” the presidency said in a statement.
Meanwhile a young Islamist was killed in clashes with protesters outside a local Muslim Brotherhood office in the Nile Delta, south of Egypt’s second city Alexandria, an Islamist leader told AFP.
“Islam Fathi Mohammed was killed” in clashes outside the Brotherhood headquarters in the town of Damanhour, one of the movement’s leaders Jamal Hichmat said.
Witnesses said clashes had broken out in Damanhour between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi, during protests there against the sweeping new powers he has assumed.
Facing a storm of protest from judges and political opponents who accuse Morsi of turning into a new dictator, the presidency said the decree was “not meant to concentrate powers”, but to devolve them. It aimed to avoid the politicisation of the judiciary, the statement said.
It also aimed to “abort any attempt” to dissolve either the body writing Egypt’s constitution or the upper house of parliament, both of them dominated by Islamists allied to Morsi, the statement added.
“The presidency stresses its firm commitment to engage all political forces in the inclusive democratic dialogue to reach a common ground and bridge the gap in order to reach a national consensus on the constitution,” it added.
Egypt’s powerful Muslim Brotherhood were readying nationwide demonstrations on Sunday in support of Morsi in his showdown with judges over the path to a new constitution.
A show of strength on the streets, expected after Muslim sunset prayers, has the potential for triggering clashes with opponents of the sweeping new powers Morsi assumed on Thursday and who remained camped out in Cairo’s Tahrir Square.
Share prices on the Egypt Exchange plunged 9.59 percent in the face of the deepening political crisis, closing at 4,917.73 points, with heavy selling forcing a half-hour suspension of trade at one point.
The US embassy warned Americans to avoid all places where demonstrations were likely to be held as Western concern mounted over the potential of Morsi’s power grab to spark new violence in the Arab world’s most populous state.
A Brotherhood statement called on its well-organised supporters to hold demonstrations after sunset in all of Egypt’s main cities to “support the decisions of the president.”
The Brotherhood’s political arm insists that Morsi’s decree, which place his decisions beyond judicial review, was a necessary move to prevent the courts from disbanding the Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution.
The courts had already dissolved the Islamist-dominated lower house of parliament.
A high court ruling that had been due next month would have had the potential to prolong an already turbulent transition from veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak’s rule since his overthrow in a popular uprising early last year, the Freedom and Justice Party said.
The judges have hit back, denouncing “an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings” and calling for the courts to stop work nationwide.
Judges in two of the country’s 27 provinces, including Mediterranean metropolis Alexandria, heeded the strike call on Sunday while those in the rest were meeting to decide their response, the Judges Club said.
Adding to the crisis, the Journalists Syndicate called for a general strike to demand that any new constitution protect press freedoms, but no date was set.
Tahrir Square, one of the capital’s crossroads, remained closed to traffic on Sunday as Morsi opponents pressed their sit-in.
By afternoon, more tents were erected in Tahrir, where protesters have been camping out since Friday to demand that Morsi rescind his decree.
On the outskirts of the square, clashes between police and protesters entered their second week, with the violence occasionally spilling into Tahrir.
Anti-riot police began erecting a concrete barrier to keep the Tahrir protesters away from nearby government buildings, witnesses said, adding that they made a string of arrests in streets surrounding the square.
The protesters have the backing of all of Egypt’s leading secular politicians.
Former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Mussa and Abdelmoneim Abul Futuh, said in a joint statement on Saturday that they would have no dialogue with Morsi until he rescinded his decree.
The US embassy said it had advised its staff to avoid the city centre “to the extent possible until further notice.”
“As a matter of general practice, US citizens should avoid areas where large gatherings may occur,” it added in a security notice on its website.
Morsi’s opponents have called for a mass demonstration in Tahrir on Tuesday.
The Muslim Brotherhood has also called a “million man” demonstration, but have changed the location in an apparent bid to avoid clashes on the day.
Washington, which only Wednesday voiced fulsome praise for Morsi’s role in brokering a truce between Israel and Gaza’s Hamas rulers to end eight days of deadly violence, has led international criticism of his power grab.
“The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community,” US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Friday.
“One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution,” she added.
Meanwhile, Egypt could become an Islamist state or face another military takeover if Morsi’s judicial power grab is left unchecked, US Senator John McCain warned Sunday.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, urged President Barack Obama to be prepared to use billions of dollars of American aid as leverage to force Egypt’s first Islamist leader to change course.
Asked about the chance of a new Islamist state in Egypt, McCain replied: “I think it could be headed that way. You also could be headed back into a military takeover if things went in the wrong direction. You could also see a scenario where there is continued chaos.”
“This is not what the United States and American taxpayers expect and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy, which you promised the people of Egypt, when your party and you were elected president,” McCain told the news talk show Fox News Sunday.
“Our leverage, obviously, is not only the substantial billions in aid we provide, plus debt forgiveness, plus an IMF deal, but also the marshaling (of) world public opinion (that) is also against this kind of move by Mr Morsi,” he said.
Obama pledged $1 million in extra support to Egypt last year. This is separate from $1.3 billion in annual military funding that Washington already provides to Cairo.
The International Monetary Fund reached a deal with Egyptian authorities last week on a 22-month loan totaling some $4.8 billion to help the country overcome economic difficulties.
Morsi’s opponents, bolstered by outrage from Egyptian justices and media organizations and criticism from the international community, have called for a mass demonstration in Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Tuesday.
The political crisis, which comes less than two years after strongman Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular revolt, has sparked fears of new violence in the Arab world’s most populous state.
It comes only days after Morsi was being toasted by world leaders for his diplomatic skill and moderation in helping forge a ceasefire between Gaza’s Islamist rulers and Israel following a bloody eight-day conflict.
Morsi, who rose to power through the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was elected Egypt’s first Islamist leader in June.
The new civilian government, which is backed by the Brotherhood, and the military, which held unrivaled influence under Mubarak, are still vying for control of the country.

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