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Egyptian Protesters Converge on Presidential Palace

by VOA News, Jeff Seldin December 07, 2012

Opponents and supporters of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi have taken to the streets of Cairo, converging on the presidential palace in another day of demonstrations that have gripped the capital.

Thousands of Morsi supporters gathered outside the Al-Azhar mosque for the funerals of two men killed in this week's bloody clashes.

VOA's Cairo Bureau Chief Elizabeth Arrott said anti-Morsi crowds are also marching and have given no indication they plan to back down any time soon.

'They say as long as he is planning on going ahead with this controversial draft constitution and referendum on it next week, as well as keeping hold of these extraordinary powers that he's granted to himself temporarily, there's no basis for dialogue,' Arrott said.

The head of the National Salvation Front, Mohammed ElBaradei, said the president's unwillingness to compromise has created what he calls 'a disaster.'

Angry protests

Protesters like Hussein Zayed said they have had enough. '[Morsi] doesn't know anything and he described all Egyptians as thugs, he is a liar and he said that those who killed the protesters are thugs, but the real thugs are the Muslim brotherhood,' Zayed said.

Soldiers have erected barricades with concrete blocks and barbed wire around the presidential palace to prevent surging violence that occurred earlier this week.

VOA's Arrott said the situation remains dangerous with plenty of potential for more clashes.

'The police and other security on Wednesday were able to put a line between the two on the main street but again most of these clashes just moved off onto the side streets and continued on there,' Arrott added.

New protests have also broken out in Alexandria where hundreds of people massed in the streets calling on Morsi to step down.

Opposition leaders said Friday they will not attend Morsi's proposed 'comprehensive' dialogue on Saturday. The Egyptian leader has insisted that dialogue is the only solution to the country's constitutional crisis.

Morsi stands firm

​​Speaking on national television Thursday, Morsi said he will not tolerate killings or sabotage. Morsi noted that seven people were killed outside the presidential palace, with more than 700 others injured during demonstrations this week.

The president says 80 people have been arrested for crimes, including the use of firearms, and he described some of the detainees as 'hired for money.'

U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Morsi by telephone Thursday to voice 'deep concern' about the protest deaths and injuries.

A White House statement said Obama also urged all Egyptian political leaders to make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable.

Morsi said he will form a new advisory panel to write a new draft constitution if voters on December 15 reject the one passed by his Islamist followers last week. Critics say that document was drafted solely by Islamists without opposition input.

Said Sadek, who teaches political sociology at the American University in Cairo, foresees a long period of instability stemming from the increasing polarization of Egyptian society. Sadek said the chaos will also erode Morsi's popular support.

​​'More instability, more chaos and more economic troubles would also undermine the regime of Morsi, because his social base is the countryside and some squatter settlements,' Sadek said. 'Now, when there is economic squeezing, this is a base that will be hit harder than the middle class and upper class and they will start screaming, 'where is the food, where is the bread?''

Sadek said that Morsi and his Islamist supporters have an us-versus-them view of society which inevitably creates conflict:

'The Islamists, wherever they are, they always cause division in society and the Muslim Brotherhood is dominated by a group who are elderly, under the influence of the writing of Sayyid Qutb, who divided the world into the society of believers and society non-believers. So, they look at themselves as the chosen people and the rest are second class citizens.'

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