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Call for Unity Talks as Egypt Loan Delayed
December 12, 2012

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Egypt's defense minister has called for talks on national unity in an effort to prevent an escalation in the tense confrontations over the pending referendum on a national constitution.

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, who is also the head of the armed forces, reported that President Mohamed Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood would attend. Opposition leaders have yet to confirm their attendance, at the talks or for the referendum. Voters will go to the polls on December 15 to show their support or disapproval for the new governmental framework that was hurriedly finished at the behest of Morsi, who recently granted himself wide new presidential powers to ensure that the constitution was finished and voted on and gave the army power to arrest civilians until referendum results were announced.

Sisi urged a dialogue in the wake of not only the ongoing protests in response to Morsi's actions but also the recent delay of a $4.8 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund. The Egyptian economy is still suffering from the events that swept former President Hosni Mubarak. One long-lasting consequence has been a drop in tourism, one of the country's vital interests. Reserves of foreign currency are also at a two-year low, well below levels under Mubarak. Morsi had planned to raise taxes to compensate for the loss of the loan but decided against doing so.

Protests continued on the streets of Cairo, Alexandria, and Heliopolis, site of the presidential palace, where opposition members continued to gather in large numbers despite the deployment of army personnel and the erection of barbed wire and cinder block barrier. Some protesters had cut their way through the barrier and had approached the palace but left only bits of graffiti on the palace walls.

As in recent days, large crowds of Morsi supporters gathered on the streets as well, at separate venues. Police cars surrounded Cairo's Tahrir Square for the first time in a few weeks, after gunmen opened fire on protesters gathered in the square, injuring nine people.

In a separate report, some protesters reported being detained and roughed up by Morsi supporters in a recent clash between two opposing large groups that resulted in nine people dead and hundreds injured.

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