Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi on Saturday issued a decree annulling the most controversial parts of earlier orders that granted him sweeping powers, including the ability to make laws and decisions that are not subject to judicial reviews.

The earlier orders had led to three weeks of violent clashes between Morsi supporters and the political opposition.

The president no longer has absolute powers, but his government’s draft constitution will stand in its current form and will not be subject to change before a referendum set for Dec. 15, NBC’s Ayman Mohyeldin reported from Cairo.

The new declaration still calls for the referendum to go ahead as scheduled, but the new referendum will not be a simple “yes” or “no.”

Earlier Saturday, Egypt’s military warned of “disastrous consequences” if the crisis that sent tens of thousands of protesters back into the streets was not resolved, signaling the army’s return to an increasingly polarized and violent political scene.

The military said serious dialogue is the “best and only” way to overcome the  nation’s deepening conflict.

“Anything other than that (dialogue) will force us into a dark tunnel with  disastrous consequences; something which we won’t allow,” the statement  said.

Failing to reach a consensus “is in the interest of neither side. The nation  as a whole will pay the price,” it added. The statement was read by an unnamed  military official on state television.

Egypt’s once all-powerful military, which temporarily took over governing the  country after the revolution that ousted autocratic leader Hosni Mubarak, has  largely been sidelined since handing over power to Morsi weeks after his  election.

But it has begun asserting itself again, with soldiers sealing off the  presidential palace with tanks and barbed wire, as rival protests and street  battles between Morsi’s supporters and his opponents turned increasingly  violent.

The statement said the military “realizes its national responsibility in  protecting the nation’s higher interests” and state institutions.

At least six civilians have been killed and several offices of the  president’s Muslim Brotherhood set on fire since the crisis began on Nov. 22.  The two sides also have staged a number of sit-ins around state institutions,  including the presidential palace where some of the most violent clashes  occurred.

Images of the military’s elite Republican Guards unit surrounding the area  around the palace showed one of the most high-profile troop deployment since the  army handed over power to Morsi on June 30.

A sit-in by Morsi’s opponents around the palace continued Saturday, with protesters setting up roadblocks with tanks behind them amid reports that the president’s supporters planned rival protests. By midday Saturday, TV footage showed the military setting up a new wall of cement blocks around the palace.

Tensions have escalated since Morsi issued new decrees granting himself and  an Islamist-dominated constitutional assembly immunity from oversight by the  judiciary. The president’s allies then rushed through a constitution and he  announced a Dec. 15 nationwide referendum on the charter.

The president has insisted his decrees were meant to protect the country’s  transition to democracy from former regime figures trying to derail it.

Source: NBC News


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