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Egyptian Army Surrounds Presidential Palace
December 6, 2012

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The Egyptian army has restored order around the presidential palace in Heliopolis, with barricades and a more highly visible security presence, in response to overnight struggles that turned lethal.

A large group of supporters of President Mohammed Morsi clashed with a large of opponents to the president's newly expansive powers, and the result was five deaths and more than 600 people injured. In response, the army brought in tanks, armored vehicles, and, of course, soldiers to erect the barricades and otherwise protect the presidential palace. The barricades are a combination of concrete blocks and barbed wire fences.

Morsi himself returned to the palace, having fled the palace after the initial crowds gathered. In a statement on state-run television, the President called for a dialog with his opponents and reiterated his commitment to relinquishing his expanded powers once the constitution was in place.

Crowds of people who feel disenfranchised by the new government and draft constitution have gathered for several days in large numbers, in Cairo's Tahrir Square and in other cities across the country. Opposition leaders Amr Moussa and Mohamed El-Baradei have formed a new political group, the National Salvation Front, and have urged continued protests and a boycott of the December 15 referendum on the constitution. Christian and other liberal members of the constitution-writing assembly resigned a few weeks ago in protest at what they saw as an effort to curtail human and civil rights in the drafting of the country's new laws.

Vice-president Mahmoud Mekki had earlier issued a statement insisting that changes to the constitution were still possible even after the referendum.

The spark for the latest massive protests was a decree by Morsi giving him expansive presidential powers, including immunity from judicial oversight. He has come under considerable pressure to alter or rescind that decree, most recently from the country's top Islamic group, the Al-Azhar Institution, which also called for a national dialog between Morsi and his opponents.



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