Egypt: army calls unity talks amid constitutional rift

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Egypt: army calls unity talks amid constitutional rift

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Both sides in the constitutional conflict that is pulling Egypt apart have kept up their demonstrations around the presidential palace in Cairo.

The big guns of the Muslim world turned out to back President Mohamed Mursi. The head of Al Azhar, one of the most significant religious institutions in the Arab world addressed supporters.

One pro-Mursi demonstrator said: “The opposition won’t be satisfied until they have forced the president to step down, but that’ll never happen – only over our dead bodies. He is the legitimate ruler in power.”

Opponents of the referendum on Saturday claim Mursi is trying to railroad an Islamist agenda into the constitution, omitting the interests of other Egyptians. The influential Club of Judges have refused to take part.

Tensions have risen so much that the head of the army will host national unity talks on Wednesday afternoon. Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood party are expected to go. The opposition have yet to decide.

An anti-Mursi protester said: “The current ruling power is not democratic, they have militia and secret groups that have shot at people, against the opposition, and that is something which destroys President Mursi’s legitimacy.”

The opposition stayed away from last weekend’s reconciliation meeting called by the president. Now, they are saying talks without cancelling the referendum will be little more than a media show.

Our correspondent in Cairo Mohammed Shaikhibrahim reports from outside the presidential palace: “These demonstrations show the power of both sides of the political controversy in Egypt. Parties trying to prove the legitimacy of their own programmes and their vision for the future of Egypt, but the decisive word remains with the ballot box.”