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Egypt

Egypt opposition: vote 'no' on constitutional referendum

Egypt's leading opposition group has called on citizens to vote "no" on a referendum concerning the country's controversial constitution. The announcement comes as Egyptians abroad begin voting in embassies.

Leading opposition group the National Salvation Front (NSF) called on voters to reject Egypt's proposed constitution, after previously demanding that the referendum be called off.

"We call on citizens to vote 'no' in the referendum on the constitution," the NSF said in a statement on Wednesday.

The referendum concerns Egypt's new constitution, drafted by the country's Islamist-dominated assembly with the approval of President Mohammed Morsi.

On Tuesday, thousands of protesters gathered outside the presidential palace in Cairo in protest against the referendum. Violence between the opposition and the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, who supported Morsi in his June election, has claimed seven lives and injured hundreds more.

Voting begins

Some 500,000 Egyptians in 150 countries began the voting process at embassies and consulates Wednesday, the official state news agency MENA reported.

On the same day, the country's electoral commission announced that the referendum within Egypt will be spread over two days.

Voting will start December 15 as planned, but a second round of regional voting will take place December 22.

The decision to split the referendum was made because many of the judges needed to oversee the vote were staying away in protest. Voting was thus staggered to accommodate availability.

Military postpones talks

Egypt's army postponed scheduled talks Wednesday between the two factions fighting over the constitution, citing a lack of response from the invited parties. Morsi was expected to attend.

"The invitation addressed to national and political forces for a meeting of Egyptian unity scheduled for today, 12/12/2012, has been postponed to a later date because reactions to it were not at the level wished for," said the statement posted on the army's official Facebook page.

The opposition did not attend earlier talks aimed at reconciliation suggested by Morsi called last weekend.

dr/msh (Reuters, AFP, dapd)