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Egyptian Protests Persist as Morsi Defends Powers Free From Judicial Review

November 26, 2012 at 12:00 AM EST
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RAY SUAREZ: And we turn to two stories about conflict in the Middle East, starting with Egypt, where the controversy surrounding the president’s recent decrees continues.

This morning saw relative calm in Cairo’s Tahrir Square, but protesters insisted they will not leave the site until President Mohammed Morsi withdraws a sweeping decree he issued last week. It gives him broad new powers, free from judicial review.

MAN (through translator): We demand that the president listens to the people who chose him. The people elected him so he would defend the people, not to do as he pleases.

RAY SUAREZ: Instead, Morsi defended himself in a meeting today with the country’s Supreme Judicial Council. A spokesman said he told the judges his actions do not infringe on their authority.

That stand could provoke more trouble after a weekend of violence pitting liberal and secular factions against Morsi’s Islamist supporters. Last night in Cairo, protesters threw rocks at police, who fired back with tear gas. Demonstrators also clashed with pro-Morsi Egyptians in the city of Damanhour. Attacks on the local offices of the Muslim Brotherhood left one teenager dead and dozens of people wounded.

Thousands of the president’s backers staged rallies in several cities.

MAN (through translator): We support Mohammed Morsi’s fair and correct decision. And eventually the good from the bad will be distinguishable. We support Dr. Morsi for a better life for Egyptians.

RAY SUAREZ: U.S. officials raised concerns about Morsi’s decree and prospects for new political strife.

Today, the State Department’s Victoria Nuland called for calm.

VICTORIA NULAND, State Department: What is important to us is that these issues be settled through dialogue, that these issues be settled democratically.

We are encouraged that the various important stakeholders in Egypt are now talking to each other, that President Morsi is consulting on the way forward, but we’re not going to prejudge where that is going to go.

RAY SUAREZ: The domestic unrest has overshadowed Morsi’s role in mediating a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas and Egypt’s role as a mediator in indirect talks between the two adversaries. Concern was growing about more trouble in Cairo tomorrow. This afternoon, the Muslim Brotherhood spokesman said the party had postponed demonstrations Tuesday to avoid bloodshed.