Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has made his first speech to the upper house of parliament. He called on the opposition to avoid violence and work with him to rebuild the country's economy.
In his first speech to the country's upper house of parliament, Egypt's Islamist president has warned against any unrest that could harm the drive to repair the country's economy. He said the opposition should work with his government and turn to "production, work, seriousnessness" after two years of conflict.
In his hour long televised speech, President Morsi blamed protests and violence over the last month - mainly in response to the controversial new constitution - for causing further damage to an economy already in crisis.
Until recently, the upper house of parliament, called the Shura Council, has had few powers. But under the new constitution it is acting as the law-making body until a new legislating lower house is chosen in national elections expected within the next few months. The Council has an overwhelming Islamist majority, mainly from Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters and the allied, ultraconservative Salafis.
Morsi called on the opposition to drop its refusals to deal with his government. He repeated his invitation for it to join his national dialogue to draw up key legislation to put before parliament, including a law organizing the parliamentary elections.
Morsi again promised to reshuffle his cabinet. Two ministers, including one of his Islamist allies, have so far resigned in disagreements over government policy.
All sides must "realize the needs of the moment" and work only through "mature democracy while avoiding violence," he told the 270-member Council. "We condemn and reject all forms of violence by individuals, groups, institutions and even from the nation and its government. This is completely rejected."
Morsi criticised people who were talking down the economy: "Those who talk about bankruptcy, they are the ones who are are bankrupt. Egypt will never be bankrupt and will not kneel, God willing," he said.
Egypt has been facing a financial crisis amid doubts over the government's ability to push through unpopular spending cuts and tax hikes needed to persuade the International Monetary Fund to agree to a $4.8 billion (3.6 billion euro) loan.
Also on Saturday, Finance Minister Mumtaz al-Saeed said that Egypt had received the final instalment out of a total of $2 billion promised by Qatar. He said a further $500 million loan from Turkey would be paid at the end of January.
Morsi also repeated his support for Syrian rebels, saying: "The Syrians' revolution, and we support it, will achieve its goals of freedom and dignity."
jm/jlw (AP, AFP)