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Arab World

Morsi seeks to defuse Egypt's political crisis

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi is to meet judicial officials to try to defuse a political crisis he sparked by seizing extensive new powers. The justice minister has hinted that a compromise could be imminent.

President Morsi was not expected to use his meeting with the Supreme Judicial Council, Egypt's highest court, on Monday to rescind the decree granting himself the sweeping new powers, as demanded by the opposition and demonstrators at Cario's Tahrir Square.

However, the justice minister, who has been mediating to try to defuse the crisis, said he believed Morsi would agree to a proposal from the judiciary that would limit those new powers to "sovereign matters."

Egypt in crisis

"I believe President Mohamed Morsi wants that," Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki told reporters prior to the meeting.

A presidential statement issued on Sunday didn't go as far as that, saying only that the provisions contained in the decree he issued last Thursday were "temporary" and that all sides in the dispute should work to “reach common ground.”

Among the measures that have angered opposition politicians and protesters alike is a ban on any judicial review of presidential decrees or other actions and legal immunity for the assembly charged with drafting the country's new constitution. They fear that Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood, which also won this year's parliamentary elections, are seeking to consolidate power in an effort to dominate Egyptian politics in the long term.

Protests turn violent

Tens of thousands of people have taken to the streets over the past few days in protests against the decree that in some cases have turned violent. One person has been killed and an estimated at least 370 people injured in the clashes. Some judges and prosecutors have gone out on strike in protest.

Opposition politicians, such as the former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, Mohamed ElBaradei, have accused the president of behaving like a dictator. Western governments have also voiced their concerns.

Germany's foreign minister issued a statement encouraging Egypt to continue down the road to democracy, which it embarked on when weeks of protests forced long-time strongman Hosni Mubarak to step down almost two years ago.

"Democracy means the rule of law, which means the division of powers," Guido Westerwelle said in a statement.

Morsi and his supporters have defended last week's decree as a move meant to speed up democratic reforms.

pfd/dr (Reuters, AFP, AP, dpa)

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