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Morsi Presses Ahead Despite Opposition's Talks Boycott


Egyptian soldiers prevent demonstrators from crossing over a barbed-wire fence as thousands gather near the presidential palace in Cairo to protest against a draft constitution and President Muhammad Morsi's sweeping decree.
President Muhammad Morsi is expected to press ahead with weekend talks on ways to end Egypt's current crisis despite vows by the country's main opposition leaders to stay away.

Egypt has been rocked by unrest since November 22, when Morsi awarded himself wide powers and exempted presidential actions from judicial or other checks just five months after taking office.

Morsi has also angered many in Egypt with plans to go ahead with a referendum on a draft constitution that has been rushed through an assembly dominated by Islamists.

Opponents want Morsi to rescind the decree on presidential powers and postpone the referendum.

Egypt's military meanwhile said it "supports dialogue" to resolve the crisis. It warned in a December 8 statement that the alternative would "take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous results."

The country's powerful military had been largely quiet since the street protests began.

On December 7, Vice President Mahmud Mekky said the president was prepared to postpone the referendum if that could be done without legal challenge.

Meanwhile, early voting for Egyptians abroad reportedly was put off until December 12, raising hopes among some in the opposition camp.

Opponents of Morsi broke through barbed wire to protest outside the presidential palace on December 7, after the army erected the barricades following clashes between supporters and opponents of Morsi that left at least five people dead and hundreds more wounded.

U.S. President Barack Obama has told Morsi of his "deep concern" about casualties in this week's clashes.

Protester Abdel Fattah al-Liwa said the draft was proof that the revolution that toppled strongman Hosni Mubarak last year has been stolen.

"No, no, no -- those who understand more than me say that [the draft constitution] was made under a staircase!" Liwa told Reuters. "This is unacceptable for the constitution of Egypt -- it has been stolen! This revolution has been stolen, by God it has!"

UN Human Rights Commissioner Navi Pillay on December 7 said there were some "very worrying" elements in the draft.

Among them, the text does not explicitly ban discrimination on the basis of gender, religion, and origin, Pillay said in Geneva.

Islamists rallied outside the Media City near Cairo to show support for Morsi. They chanted slogans against media outlets that they accused of fostering hostility toward the Islamist leader.

Based on reporting by dpa, AP, and Reuters