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Opposition unhappy as Egypt finalises constitution

Plans to finalise a new constitution came to a halt when Egypt president opposition rejected changes.

Muslim Brotherhood Egyptian presidential candidate Mohammed Mursi gives a press conference in Cairo on May 26, 2012. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - An Islamist-led assembly was expected to finalise a new constitution on Friday aimed at transforming Egypt and paving the way for an end to a crisis which erupted when President Mohamed Morsi gave himself sweeping new powers last week.

Morsi said his decree halting court challenges to his decisions, which provoked protests and violence from Egyptians fearing a new dictator was emerging less than two years after they ousted Hosni Mubarak, was "for an exceptional stage".

"It will end as soon as the people vote on a constitution," he told state television on Thursday night. "There is no place for dictatorship."

The assembly was expected to finish approving the draft constitution on Friday, allowing a referendum to be held as soon as mid-December on a text the Islamists say reflects Egypt's new freedoms.

Morsi's critics argue it is an attempt to rush through a draft they say has been hijacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, which backed Morsi for president in June elections, and its allies.

Two people have been killed and hundreds injured in the protests since last Thursday's decree, which deepened the divide between the newly-empowered Islamists and their opponents.

Setting the stage for more tension, the Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have called for pro-Morsi rallies on Saturday. But officials from the Brotherhood's party changed the venue and said they would avoid Tahrir Square, where a sit-in by the president's opponents entered an eighth day on Friday.

Seeking to calm protesters, Morsi said he welcomed opposition but it should not divide Egyptians and there was no place for violence. "I am very happy that Egypt has real political opposition," he said.

He stressed the need to attract investors and tourists to Egypt, where the crisis threatens to derail some early signs of an economic recovery after two years of turmoil. Egypt's benchmark stock index fell on Thursday to a 20-week-month low.




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