Egypt Braces for More Protests as Morsi Refuses to Back off
Egypt is bracing for a day of fresh protests, unnerved by President Mohamed Morsi's latest address and the threats of punishment.
In remarks Thursday night Mohamed Morsi refused to back off the controversial edict he issued or his nation's upcoming constitutional referendum, saying he respects peaceful opposition to his decisions but won't stand for violence.
Addressing "those who oppose me" and his backers, the president condemned those involved in the clashes - referring specifically to those with weapons and who are backed by members of the "corrupt ... ex-regime" -- and promised they'd be held accountable.
"(They) will not escape punishment," the president said in a televised speech.
Morsi's words even further enraged the many protestors on the streets, who camped in Cairo's Tahrir Square chanting "Leave! Leave! Leave!".
Egypt has been plunged into crisis since President Morsi issued a decree on 22 November stripping the judiciary of any power to challenge his decisions.
Those taking part in the protests around the North African nation say the scenes are similar to those of the 2011 uprising that led to Mubarak's ouster. This time, they say, dissent is being vigorously stamped out by Morsi's backers in government and on the street.
"It's exactly the same battle," said Hasan Amin, a CNN iReporter.
US President Barack Obama called Morsi on Thursday to express his "deep concern" over the recent violent protests, the White House said.
He welcomed Morsi's call for talks, but stressed they should be "without preconditions", a statement said.
Nobel prize winner Mohamed ElBaradei, who is chief co-ordinator of the opposition National Salvation Front movement, expressed dismay at Morsi's speech.
"We had hoped that the president would answer the continuing calls to rescind the constitutional decree and delay the referendum until there's national consensus on the constitution," he said in a televised address.
"We had wanted the president to have a comprehensive dialogue to save the country from the split that threatens it."