Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi has told his country's top judges he acted within his rights to grant himself expanded powers, but his office also appeared to climb down slightly from the most contentious aspect of his recent decree.
At a meeting on November 26, Morsi told the judges his decree to put his rulings outside of judicial review would not "infringe" on the workings of Egypt's courts.
But his spokesman,Yasser Ali, later said Morsi had agreed that only his decisions on "sovereign matters" would be protected from judicial review.
That appeared to suggest a step back from one of the most heavily criticized elements of the decree, which critics angrily rejected as an attempt to assume the powers of a "pharaoh."
The perceived power grab by Morsi has sparked protests by both supporters and opponents of the Islamist president, with at least one person killed and hundreds wounded since protests erupted late on November 22, the day of Morsi's decrees.
Tens of thousands of Egyptians were expected to turn up for street protests on November 27 to show their anger over the decree, with some people already camped out on Cairo's Tahrir Square, where public protests were focused in the bid to oust longtime strongman Hosni Mubarak in early 2011.
The country's judiciary has called Morsi's action a power grab and an "assault" on the branch's independence. Judges and prosecutors stayed away from many courts in Cairo and elsewhere on November 25-26.
Calls For Calm
U.S. President Barack Obama has called for calm, urging both sides to resolve the dispute peacefully.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton spoke on November 26 by telephone with Egyptian Foreign Minister Muhammad Kamel Amr to "register American concerns about Egypt's political situation."
In an apparent bid to ease tensions the Muslim Brotherhood, which is allied with Morsi, a longtime member, has canceled a rally in support of Morsi originally slated for November 27 in Cairo.
However, Morsi's opponents planned to be out in large numbers for what they hoped to be one of the largest protests yet.
Morsi has said he will rescind his decree after a new constitution is drafted and parliamentary elections are held. That should happen sometime by the middle of next year.
Morsi was quoted by Ali as telling his prime minister and security chiefs earlier on November 26 that his decrees were designed to "end the transitional period as soon as possible."
Morsi became Egypt's first freely elected president in June.
With reporting by AP and Reuters