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Egypt's opposition calls anti-referendum rallies

An opposition coalition has called on Egyptians to take to the streets for fresh protests on Tuesday. The call comes despite the president’s announcement that he had cancelled a decree granting himself extended powers.

The opposition National Salvation Front issued the statement late on Sunday after meeting to discuss how to respond to President Mohamed Morsi's decision to annul his November 22 decree, which had put all of his decisions above judicial review. That decree, which also shielded the Islamist-dominated legislative assembly that wrote the country's draft constitution from the judiciary, sparked a series of sometimes violent street protests.

While some may have seen the latest decree, issued late on Saturday, as a step in the right direction, it failed to address another of the opposition's key demands - that a December 15 referendum on the draft constitution be cancelled.

"We do not recognize the draft constitution because it does not represent the Egyptian people," the opposition National Salvation Front said in a statement read out to reporters at a Cairo press conference. "We reject the referendum which will certainly lead to more division and sedition."

The statement also included a call for Egyptians to hold mass demonstrations across the country on Tuesday "as a rejection of the president's decision that goes against our legitimate demands."

Presidential concession not enough

The decision to call for more protests hardly came as a surprise, as a number of opposition figures had said prior to Sunday's meeting that President Morsi's climbdown on last month's presidential decree had not gone far enough.

"We will bring down a constitution, which aborts our rights and freedom," a leading figure in the coalition, Mohammed ElBaradei, said via his Twitter account.

The opposition movement April 6 Youth responded to Saturday's decree, regarded as a concession from the president to the opposition, earlier in the day.

"We fully reject the new constitutional declaration, which is aimed at securing approval of the constitution written by the Muslim Brotherhood," the group said in a statement, referring to the Islamist movement whose political wing holds most of the seats in the assembly.

"We will continue our protests and escalate our action until the referendum on the constitution is cancelled," the April 6 Youth statement added.

Some other groups do not go quite as far, but are demanding that the referendum be postponed to give opposition politicians the opportunity to make amendments before the document is put to the people.

Meanwhile, there is a report that President Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood is also planning to hold a counter-demonstration on Tuesday. The AFP news agency quoted a spokesman for the movement who said the rally would be in support of the constitutional referendum.

Based on the events of recent days, this could raise the potential for violence between the two groups.

pfd/msh (Reuters, dpa, AFP)