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“I tell my opponents before my supporters, help me to carry out this responsibility you bestowed upon me in managing the country’s affairs,” Morsi said.

He called for a national dialogue to discuss the “concerns” of the nation.

Opponents of Morsi’s decision and the charter had held massive rallies over the last week, and several hundreds are holding a sit-in in Tahrir, the epicenter of the uprising that forced former President Hosni Mubarak to step down last year. They had conditioned their participation in a national dialogue on Morsi rescinding his decrees, which they said gave him near-dictatorial powers.

In an immediate reaction to the referendum date, prominent democracy advocate Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who is a member of a coalition of opposition leaders, said on his Twitter account that Morsi put to a referendum a constitution that “undermines basic freedoms and violates universal rights. The struggle continues.”

The opposition announced plans for an intensified street campaign of protests and civil disobedience and even a possible march on Morsi’s presidential palace to prevent him from holding a nationwide referendum on the draft. It is not clear whether the opposition can rally enough voters to shoot down the constitution in a referendum or organize a boycott campaign.