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Egyptian president annuls controversial decree

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi has cancelled a decree that had given him sweeping powers. The move came after uproar from civilians and politicians.

Following protests that culminated in thousands of people storming Morsi's palace in Cairo over the weekend, the president finally backed down from the law at the root of the unrest late Saturday night, according to an Egyptian politician speaking to the media.

"The consitutional decree has been nullified, effective immediately," Islamist politician Selim al Awa told reporters after Morsi met with politicians in the presidential palace.

The referendum on the new constitution was still scheduled for December 15, he added.

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Morsi backs down but protestors remain

The civil and political unrest began in November when the Egyptian president exempted himself and the assembly drafting Egypt's constitution from judicial oversight and set a referendum on the document for December 15.

Anger had mounted in Cairo earlier on Saturday, when hundreds gathered in front of Morsi's presidential palace. The demonstration drew 10,000 people who clambered atop tanks to call loudly for Morsi to step down before they peacefully dispersed hours later.

Protesters spray-painted "Down with Morsi" on tanks. Others draped the tanks with posters of Morsi and the word "Leave" across his face in red letters.

During the dispute, Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood found themselves pitted against the secular opposition alarmed at the expanded powers the president had given himself and his efforts to push through a new, heavily religious constitution.

Last month, Egypt's Islamist-led assembly had approved 234 articles for the draft constitution. Among the provisions was an article that had been retained from the old constitution, which defined "the principles of Shariah" as the main source of legislation. It also added new Islamic references.

The weeks of protests and bloody clashes over the constitutional decree resulted in seven deaths and hundreds wounded.

kms, mkg/ccp (AFP, Reuters, dpa, AP)

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