Draft charter stirs worst clashes since Mubarak

  • Egyptian protesters push army soldiers standing guard in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)Egyptian protesters push army soldiers standing guard in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)
  • Egyptian army soldiers stand guard during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)Egyptian army soldiers stand guard during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Soldiers stand guard atop a tank in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)Soldiers stand guard atop a tank in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012.  The banner in the background reads, in Arabic, "the people want to end the regime." (Associated Press)Protesters chant slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. The banner in the background reads, in Arabic, "the people want to end the regime." (Associated Press)
  • A protester opposed to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 8, 2012. Egypt's military said that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict over a disputed draft constitution. (Associated Press)A protester opposed to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans outside the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 8, 2012. Egypt's military said that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict over a disputed draft constitution. (Associated Press)
  • Graffiti depicting Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as a pharaoh and Arabic that reads, "void," covers a wall in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2012. (Associated Press)Graffiti depicting Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi as a pharaoh and Arabic that reads, "void," covers a wall in Tahrir Square in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Young girls pose for a photograph by a wall painted with graffiti showing President Mohammed Morsi (left) and a split portrait of former Defense Minister Hussain Tantawi (center) and former President Hosni Mobarak in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2012. (Associated Press)Young girls pose for a photograph by a wall painted with graffiti showing President Mohammed Morsi (left) and a split portrait of former Defense Minister Hussain Tantawi (center) and former President Hosni Mobarak in front of the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 10, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Protesters opposed to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi hang a banner outside the palace in Cairo on Dec. 8, 2012. Egypt's military said that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict. (Associated Press)Protesters opposed to Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi hang a banner outside the palace in Cairo on Dec. 8, 2012. Egypt's military said that serious dialogue is the "best and only" way to overcome the nation's deepening conflict. (Associated Press)
  • An Egyptian protester carries a poster with a picture of President Mohammed Morsi and Arabic that reads "wanted for justice, escaped from the Natroun valley prison in January 29, 2011, Reward, a box of oil and two eggs" during an anti-Morsi protest near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)An Egyptian protester carries a poster with a picture of President Mohammed Morsi and Arabic that reads "wanted for justice, escaped from the Natroun valley prison in January 29, 2011, Reward, a box of oil and two eggs" during an anti-Morsi protest near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • An Egyptian protester with a mask on his face and a sticker with Arabic that reads "No for the constitution of the Morshid" during a protest against President Mohammed Morsi near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)An Egyptian protester with a mask on his face and a sticker with Arabic that reads "No for the constitution of the Morshid" during a protest against President Mohammed Morsi near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 7, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • A protester holds the Egyptian national flag as army soldiers stand guard near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)A protester holds the Egyptian national flag as army soldiers stand guard near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Egyptian army soldiers stand guard Dec. 9, 2012, near the presidential palace in Cairo. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)Egyptian army soldiers stand guard Dec. 9, 2012, near the presidential palace in Cairo. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)
  • Egyptian army soldiers stand guard as protesters stand on top of cement blocks near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)Egyptian army soldiers stand guard as protesters stand on top of cement blocks near the presidential palace in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. (Associated Press)
  • Protesters make a bonfire in front of the presidential palace (background) in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)Protesters make a bonfire in front of the presidential palace (background) in Cairo on Dec. 9, 2012. Egypt's liberal opposition called for more protests, seeking to keep up the momentum of its street campaign after the president made a partial concession overnight but refused its main demand he rescind a draft constitution going to a referendum on Dec. 15. (Associated Press)
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CAIRO — Egypt is bracing for more political tension this week, as supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi plan for massive demonstrations Tuesday and a weekend deadline looms for a vote on a draft constitution that has split the country into hostile camps.

“We do not recognize the draft constitution because it does not represent the Egyptian people,” Sameh Ashour, a spokesman for the opposition National Salvation Front, said Sunday.

The referendum “will certainly lead to more division and sedition,” he added, reading a statement from the opposition.

Later Sunday, the Alliance of Islamist Forces announced a campaign to support the constitution and called for demonstrations on the same day as the opposition.

Egypt is in the grip of the worst and deadliest political violence since the overthrow of autocratic President Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

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Egyptian protesters push soldiers guarding the presidential palace in Cairo on Sunday. ... more >

Thousands of supporters and opponents of Mr. Morsi have clashed in the streets of Cairo and other cities since the president on Nov. 22 gave himself sweeping powers that put him above the country’s judiciary.

The protests deepened after a constitutional committee composed of Mr. Morsi’s Islamist supporters passed the charter, which is set for a referendum Saturday.

He canceled the presidential decrees over the weekend, prompting smaller anti-Morsi demonstrations Sunday. The opposition is now targeting the Saturday referendum on the draft constitution.

The opposition says the measure would restrict civil rights and negate the goals of the revolt that overthrew Mubarak.

“The timing and the way this constitution was [created] makes one doubt his intentions,” said Mohammed Abdel-Hameed, a 28-year-old opposition member. “I read the controversial articles thoroughly. Those articles shouldn’t be in the postrevolution constitution.

“If Morsi continued to be that stubborn, and if he can’t end this crisis, he will eventually be toppled and the army will rule us again,” he said.

The Egyptian military spoke up Saturday for the first time since the protests erupted.

“Anything other than dialogue [between both sides] will force us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences, something which we won’t allow,” the military said in a statement.

On Sunday, Mr. Morsi ordered the military to maintain security and protect state institutions until after the referendum. He also authorized soldiers to arrest civilians if they interfere with the voting.

Fighting on Cairo’s streets last week was some of the worst since Mubarak was ousted.

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