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CAIRO: Three members of Egyptian President Mohammed Mursi’s advisory team said yesterday they had resigned over the crisis ignited by a decree that expanded his powers.
Seif Abdel Fattah, Ayman Al Sayyad and Amr Al Leithy all tendered their resignations, bringing to six the number of presidential staff who have quit in the wake of a decree that has triggered countrywide violence.
The previously announced resignations included a Christian and a woman. They were part of a presidential staff assembled by Mursi, an Islamist, in an effort to build an inclusive administration.
Leithy said he had submitted his resignation following the November 22 decree. He said neither he, Sayyad or Abdel Fattah - all political independents - had been consulted on the decree. But they had not made their resignations public as they tried to help resolve the crisis. In an effort to end the turmoil, Mursi has called a December 15 referendum on a draft constitution that will override the decree. The opposition want the referendum postponed
“I today urge the president to cancel the constitutional decree and to postpone the referendum on the constitution and to open an immediate national dialogue with all the political forces to produce a consensus constitution,” he said.
Speaking to Al Jazeera television, Sayyad said: “We have tried, over the course of an entire week to solve it, but unfortunately we did not succeed,” he said.
“We announce now clearly that we failed.” Abdel Fattah also told Al Jazeera he had quit.
Islamists fought protesters outside the President’s Palace yesterday, while inside the building his deputy proposed a way to end a crisis over a draft constitution that has split the most populous Arab nation. Stones and petrol bombs flew between opposition protesters and supporters of President Mohamed Mursi, and the Interior Ministry said 32 people had been arrested and three police vehicles destroyed.
Two Islamists were hit in the legs by what their friends said were bullets fired during clashes in streets around the compound in northern Cairo. One of them was bleeding heavily. And a leftist group said Islamists had cut off the ear of one of its members.
Medical sources said 33 people had been wounded, but despite reports of fatalities, the Health Ministry said there had been no deaths. Riot police were deployed between the two sides in Cairo to try to stop confrontations that flared after dark despite an attempt by Vice President Mahmoud Mekky to ease the crisis.Mekky said amendments to disputed articles in the draft constitution could be agreed with the opposition. A written agreement could then be submitted to the next parliament, to be elected after a referendum on the constitution on December 15.
“There must be consensus,” he told a news conference, saying opposition demands had to be respected to reach a solution.
A spokesman for Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called on Islamists and opponents to withdraw from near the Presidential Palace and pledge not to return. Mahmud Ghozlan said the protesters “should withdraw at the same time and pledge not to return there given the symbolism of the palace.” He said the Brotherhood, which turned out to support President Mohammed Mursi against opposition protesters, was not in touch with its opponents and it was up to security forces to mediate the resolution.
Prime Minister Hisham Kandil called for calm in Cairo yesterday so that an effort to promote national dialogue could have a chance of success. In a statement, Kandil urged calm around the presidential palace - the scene of fighting between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Mursi - to “give the opportunity for the efforts being made now to begin a national dialogue”. Meanwhile, opposition coalition blamed President Mursi for violence outside his palace yesterday and said it was ready for dialogue if the Islamist leader scrapped a decree that gave him extraordinary powers. Clashes erupted after the Muslim Brotherhood, the group that helped Mursi win a presidential election in June, told its supporters to go to the palace where opponents were protesting against the president’s powers and against a draft constitution that they say is biased.
“Today what is happening in the Egyptian street, polarisation and division, is something that could and is actually drawing us to violence and could draw us to something worse,” said opposition politician Mohamed ElBaradei.
“We hold President Mursi and his government completely responsible for the violence that is happening in Egypt today,” said ElBaradei, coordinator of the National Salvation Front alliance.
Protests began after Mursi issued a decree on November 22 that expanded his powers. He fuelled opposition anger further by racing through approval of a draft constitution, drawn up by an Islamist-led assembly, for a referendum set for December 15.