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Thousands of Egyptians turn out for anti-Morsi protests

Thousands of Egyptian protesters have clashed with security forces across Egypt as the country's political violence extended for an eighth day. The protests come a day after talks between rival political factions.

Egyptians took to the streets on Friday after a week of deadly clashes, answering the call for rallies against Islamist President Mohammed Morsi.

The largest crowds marched through the Suez Canal city of Port Said chanting, "Leave, leave, Morsi," with thousands also rallying in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

After thousands of peaceful demonstrators had dispersed from the Egyptian presidential palace, youth threw about two dozen petrol bombs at the outer wall. Security forces responded with water cannons and volleys of tear gas. One Egyptian was reportedly killed.

Earlier, Morsi said that security forces would deal "with the utmost decisiveness to enforce the law and protect state institutions" and blamed the opposition for sparking the violence.

About 60 people have been killed in protests and clashes nationwide in the country's worst crisis since Morsi came to power last June.

Clashes began on the eve of the second anniversary of the January 25 revolt that ousted Hosni Mubarak in 2011. The violence was revitalized when an Egyptian court handed down death sentences for 21 people for their role in a deadly football-related riot last year in Port Said.

Friday's protests came one day after leaders of rival political factions, including the leading opposition group the National Salvation Front (NSF) and Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood. The groups signed a joint statement brokered by Muslim cleric Imam Ahmed al-Tayeb, head of the Al-Azhar Sunni Muslim institution, supporting "a serious dialogue" and condemning violence and called on police to "protect citizens."

Opposition criticism

Some members of the opposition sharply criticized its political leaders for holding the meeting.

A statement read by activists, liberal politicians, actors and writers said, "The initiative didn't represent the core of the problem and didn't offer solutions but came to give more legitimacy to the existing authority."

The Front's leaders, including Egypt's leading pro-democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei, described the allegations as "intentional attempt to split the ranks."

"We brought down Mubarak regime with a peaceful revolution," ElBaradei tweeted. "We insist on achieving the goals the same way whatever the sacrifices and the barbaric suppression tactics."

Egypt's presidency welcomed Thursday's agreement as "an important step on the road to re-establishing stability."

hc/kms (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)