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Egypt

Egyptian soldiers restore order around palace

Egyptian soldiers have restored order around the presidential palace after a deadly night of clashes between pro- and anti-government protesters. However, there is still no sign of a resolution to the political crisis.

Members of the Republican Guard erected a barbed-wire barricade keeping members of the public around 150 meters (492 feet) away from the palace in a Cairo suburb. The tanks that had been deployed around the palace earlier in the day remained, and protesters pulled back after a mid-afternoon deadline imposed by the military. A presidential statement had threatened the protesters with forcible removal had they refused to leave of their own accord.

While most of the supporters of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi left the area around the palace altogether, many opposing demonstrators remained close by - albeit behind the barrier.

Egypt's military steps in

Officials now say seven people were killed and 644 others wounded in Wednesday night's violence between Morsi supporters and his opponents. The clashes broke out after the president's Muslim Brotherhood announced a march to the area around the palace, where opposition protesters had been camped out.

Earlier on Thursday, Egypt's top Sunni Muslim body, the Al-Azhar institution, called on the president to "suspend the latest decree and stop using it."

A key feature of the powers seized by the president renders his decrees immune to judicial review, a move that would reduce the power of the country's courts, with which Morsi has been at odds since he took office on June 30.

The president argued that he needed the expanded powers to push through a draft constitution, which was written by an Islamist-dominated assembly. Egyptians are to go to the polls to vote in a referendum on the constitution in just over a week's time.

pfd/dr (AFP, Reuters, dpa)

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