Egypt on Edge As Rivals Plan Protests

CAIRO – Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood called for a rally backing President Mohamed Mursi outside his palace on Wednesday and leftists planned a counter-demonstration, raising fears of clashes in a crisis over a disputed push for a newconstitution.

Mursi returned to work at his compound a day after it came under siege from opposition protesters furious at his drive to ratify a new constitution in a snap referendum set for December 15 after temporarily expanding his powers by decree.

The Islamist president said he acted to prevent courts still full of appointees from the era of autocratic predecessor Hosni Mubarakfrom derailing the draft constitution meant to complete a political transition in the Arab world’s most populous state.

The Brotherhood, from which Mursi emerged to narrowly win a free election in June, summoned supporters to a demonstration outside the palace in response to what it termed “oppressive abuses” by opposition parties.

Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan was quoted on its Facebook page as saying opposition groups “imagined they could shake legitimacy or impose their views by force”.

Leftist opposition leader Hamdeen Sabahy promptly urged his supporters to go to the streets as well, heightening the chances of confrontation between Islamists and their opponents.

A spokeswoman for Sabahy’s Popular Current movement asked protesters to head to the palace to reinforce those still camped out there after Tuesday evening’s protests, in which officials said 35 protesters and 40 police were wounded.

Although they fired tear gas when protesters broke through barricades to reach the palace walls, riot police appeared to handle those disturbances with restraint.

About 200 protesters camped out overnight, blocking one gate to the palace in northern Cairo, but traffic was flowing normally and riot police had been withdrawn.

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