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Activists break Cairo cordon

A Mursi opponent at a protest in Cairo. (AP)

Cairo, Dec. 7 (Reuters): Tens of thousands of Egyptian protesters surged around President Mohamed Mursi’s palace in Cairo today after breaking through barbed wire barricades and climbing onto army tanks guarding the premises.

“The people want the downfall of the regime” and “Leave, leave,” they chanted, using slogans used in the uprising that toppled Mursi’s predecessor Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Opposition leaders earlier rejected a national dialogue proposed by the Islamist President as a way out of a crisis that has polarised the nation and provoked deadly street clashes.

Elite Republican Guard units had ringed the palace with tanks and barbed wire yesterday after a night of violence between Islamist supporters of Mursi and their opponents, in which seven people were killed and 350 wounded.

Islamists, who had obeyed a military order for demonstrators to leave the palace environs, held funerals today at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque for six Mursi partisans who were among the dead. “With our blood and souls, we sacrifice to Islam,” they chanted.

Mursi had offered few concessions in a speech late yesterday, refusing to retract a November 22 decree in which he assumed sweeping powers or cancel a referendum next week on a Constitution newly drafted by an Islamist-dominated Assembly.

Instead, he called for a dialogue at his office tomorrow to chart a way forward for Egypt after the referendum, an idea that liberal, Leftist and other Opposition leaders rebuffed.

They have demanded that Mursi rescind the decree in which he temporarily shielded his decisions from judicial review and that he postpone the December 15 referendum before any talks begin.

A leader of the main Opposition coalition said it would not join Mursi’s dialogue: “The National Salvation Front is not taking part in the dialogue,” said Ahmed Said, a leader of the coalition, who also heads the liberal Free Egyptians Party. The Front's coordinator, Mohamed ElBaradei urged “national forces” to shun what he called an offer based on“arm-twisting”.

 
 
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