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Morsi ready for 'compromise' after power grab

27 November, 2012

CAIRO: Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi negotiated with senior judges on Monday to try to defuse a crisis over his seizure of new powers, which set off violent protests reminiscent of an uprising last year that led to the rise of his Islamist movement.

The justice minister said he believed Morsi would agree with Egypt's highest judicial authority on its proposal to limit the scope of the new powers. Morsi's spokesman said the president was "very optimistic Egyptians would overcome the crisis". But the protesters, some camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square, have said only retracting the decree will satisfy them, a sign of the deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilising Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

"There is no use amending the decree," said Tarek Ahmed, 26, a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir, where tents covered the central traffic circle. "It must be scrapped."

One person has been killed and about 370 injured in clashes between police and protesters since Morsi issued the decree on Thursday shielding his decisions from judicial review, emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas.

Morsi's political opponents have accused him of behaving like a dictator and the West has voiced its concern, worried by more turbulence in a country that has a peace treaty with Israel and lies at the heart of the Arab Spring.

Morsi's administration has defended his decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation. Leftists, liberals, socialists and others say it has exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

"President Morsi is very optimistic that Egyptians will overcome this challenge as they have overcome other challenges," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters, shortly before the president started his meeting with members of Egypt's highest judicial authority, the Supreme Judicial Council.

The council has hinted at a compromise, saying Morsi's decree should apply only to "sovereign matters". That suggests it did not reject the declaration outright. It urged judges and prosecutors, some of whom went on strike, to return to work. Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky, speaking about the council statement, said, "I believe President Mohamed Morsi wants that."

The protesters are worried that Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood aims to dominate the post-Mubarak era after winning the first democratic parliamentary and presidential elections this year.

A deal with a judiciary dominated by Mubarak-era judges, which Morsi has pledged to reform, may not placate them.

A group of lawyers and activists has also challenged Morsi's decree in an administrative court, which said it would hold its first hearing on December 4. Other decisions by Morsi have faced similar legal challenges brought to court by opponents.

End.

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