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Egypt's military tells protesters to clear palace area

The Egyptian army has threatened to clear protesters from the presidential palace in Cairo, unless they left by an afternoon deadline. State media report that protesters have heeded the warning.

The Egyptian presidency issued a statement in the military's name on Thursday, saying that people opposing President Mohammed Morsi's proposed constitutional and judicial reforms should take their protests away from the presidential palace.

"The Republican Guard has decided to clear the area around the presidential palace at 15:00 local time and ban protests around institutions belonging to the presidency," Morsi's office wrote. The Republican Guard is Egypt's army.

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Tanks deployed outside palace in Egypt

The decision followed a meeting between Morsi, his defense minister and other government leaders.

Shortly before the deadline expired, the state-run newspaper Al-Ahram reported that protesters had left the Itihadiya palace area of their own accord.

The decision follows clashes on Wednesday between supporters and opponents of Morsi and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, whose political arm is the strongest force in parliament. Reports varied, but seemed to suggest between five and seven people were killed, with 644 reported injured by the health ministry. Riot police and later tanks were deployed at the scenes, though clashes continued on side streets.

Also on Thursday, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim body, the Al-Azhar institution, said that Morsi should "suspend the latest decree and stop using it."

A key point of Morsi's reforms renders his decrees immune to judicial review, a move that would reduce the power of the country's courts, with which Morsi has been at odds since he took office on June 30.

Morsi was also due to give a televised address on Thursday, according to state-run media, though a specific time was not named.

msh/pfd (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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