Al Azhar urges Mursi to suspend new powers

December 07, 2012 - 5:34:52 am

Members of the Republican Guard close a road leading to the Presidential Palace in Cairo yesterday.

CAIRO: Egypt’s top Islamic body yesterday called on President Mohammed Mursi to suspend a decree in which he claimed sweeping powers and demanded an unconditional dialogue between the president and his opponents.

The Al Azhar institution said Mursi should “suspend the latest decree and stop using it,” in a statement a day after deadly protests between Mursi supporters and opponents. 

Egypt’s Republican Guard restored order around the presidential palace on Thursday after clashes killed seven people, but passions ran high in a contest over the country’s future.

Mursi supporters withdrew before a mid-afternoon deadline set by the Republican Guard, an elite unit whose duties include protecting the palace. Opposition protesters remained, kept away by a barbed wire barricade guarded by tanks, and by evening their numbers had swelled to a few thousand. The Brotherhood’s spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan denied this, saying all “thugs” detained by members of the Islamist group had been handed over to the police or the Republican Guard.

Opposition factions called for mass protests after Friday prayers aimed at “the downfall of the militia regime”, a dig at what they see as the Brotherhood’s organised street muscle.

A communique from a leftist group urged protesters to gather at mosques and squares across Egypt, and to stage marches in Cairo and its sister city Giza converging on the presidential palace. “Egyptian blood is a red line,” the communique said. Hardline Islamist Salafis urged their supporters to protest against what they consider biased coverage of the crisis by some private Egyptian satellite television channels. 

The commander of the Republican Guard said deployment of tanks and troop carriers around the presidential palace was intended to separate the adversaries, not to repress them.

“The armed forces, and at the forefront of them the Republican Guard, will not be used as a tool to oppress the demonstrators,” General Mohamed Zaki told the state news agency.

Outside Cairo, supporters and opponents of Mursi clashed in his home town of Zagazig in the Nile Delta, state TV reported.

Egypt plunged into renewed turmoil after Mursi issued his November 22 decree and an Islamist-dominated assembly hastily approved a new constitution to go to a referendum on December 15. Since then six of the president’s advisers have resigned. Essam Al Amir, the director of state television, quit yesterday, as did a Christian official working at the presidency.

The Supreme Guide of the Brotherhood, to which Mursi belonged before he was narrowly elected president in June, appealed for unity. Divisions among Egyptians “only serve the nation’s enemies”, Mohamed Badie said in a statement.