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Egyptian Protesters Clash Outside Presidential Palace

December 05, 2012

by Edward Yeranian

Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi clashed near the presidential palace Wednesday.

Large crowds of Morsi supporters converged on the palace as the day wore on until they eventually outnumbered opponents who had staged a big demonstration there the day before.

Witnesses say the president's supporters attacked opponents, then tore down their tents and forced many to flee the area. Protesters lobbed Molotov cocktails and rocks at one another as ther standoff turned more violent after dark.

Former presidential candidate Mohamed ElBaradei tweeted that it was a “vicious attack,” against “peaceful protesters,” and he accused the government of “leading Egypt into violence and bloodshed.”

The opposition protesters want Morsi to abolish a decree he issued last month granting himself sweeping powers that place him above review by the judiciary. Many also oppose a new draft constitution drawn up by a mainly Islamist committee. The draft is set for a December 15 referendum.

Clinton urges talks

Earlier in Brussels, U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged the rival sides to hold a dialogue with each other, rather than try to impose their views on each other.

“The upheaval that we are seeing now, once again, in the streets of Cairo and of other cities indicates that dialogue is urgently needed, and it needs to be a two-way dialogue, not one side talking at another side," she said.

Clinton also urged Egypt's new leadership to work to craft a new constitution via a “process that is open, transparent and fair” and doesn't “favor one group over any other.”

Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki told a news conference that it is possible to reach a compromise over a number of contentious points in the draft constitution, but that the referendum to approve the document would go ahead as planned later this month.

Mekki said that 10 or 12 clauses at most are under dispute and that it could be possible to work out a compromise over them in the days leading up to the vote. He said the president granted himself extraordinary powers to address the “critical situation through which the country is passing,” saying that it was a response to “calls by the people for stability.”

Long protests

On Tuesday, Egyptian riot police fired tear gas outside the presidential palace, where tens of thousands of protesters had gathered while Morsi was inside conducting business.

Police tried to stop the crowd from storming the palace but soon retreated and let the marchers through a barrier and up to the palace walls. Egyptian officials say president left the palace during the march.

Many of the marchers chanted the same anti-government slogans used in the uprising that toppled former authoritarian president Hosni Mubarak.

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