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Egypt curfew scaled back

Authorities in an Egyptian city scaled back a curfew imposed by President Mohamed Morsi.

Egypt President Mohammed Morsi. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Authorities in an Egyptian city scaled back a curfew imposed by President Mohamed Morsi, and the Islamist leader cut short a visit to Europe on Wednesday to deal with the deadliest violence in the seven months since he took power.

Two more protesters were shot dead before dawn near Cairo's central Tahrir Square on Wednesday.

This comes a day after the army chief warned that the state was on the brink of collapse, if Morsi's opponents and supporters did not end street battles.

More than 50 people have been killed in the past seven days of protests by Morsi's opponents, raising global concern over whether the Islamist leader can restore stability to the most populous Arab country.

Morsi imposed a curfew and a state of emergency on three Suez Canal cities on Sunday, but that only seemed to further provoke crowds in a week of unrest marking the second anniversary of the uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak.

The governor of Ismailia, one of the three canal cities, said on Wednesday he was scaling back the curfew, which would now take effect nightly from 2:00 a.m. instead of 9:00 p.m..

Morsi, speaking in Berlin before hurrying home to deal with the crisis, called for dialogue with opponents but would not commit to their demand that he first agree to include them in a unity government.

Asked about that proposal, he said the next government would be formed after parliamentary elections in April.

Egypt was on its way to becoming "a civilian state that is not a military state or a theocratic state", Morsi said.

The violence at home forced Morsi to scale back his European visit, billed as a chance to promote Egypt as a destination for foreign investment.

He flew to Berlin but called off a trip to Paris and was due back home after only a few hours in Europe.

Chancellor Angela Merkel, who met him, echoed other Western leaders who have called on him to give his opponents a voice.

"One thing that is important for us is that the line for dialogue is always open to all political forces in Egypt, that the different political forces can make their contribution, that human rights are adhered to in Egypt and that of course religious freedom can be experienced," she said at a joint news conference with Morsi.