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Egypt Islamists, secularists clash as vote ‘to go ahead’

CAIRO: Islamist supporters of Egypt’s President Muhammad Mursi chased opposition secularists away from the presidential palace Wednesday, as the vice president said a vote on a controversial charter would go ahead as planned.
Thousands of Islamists rallied to the call of the Muslim Brotherhood, chanting “The people want to cleanse the square” of opposition demonstrators, and “Mursi has legitimacy.”
Minor clashes involving stone-throwing took place before the secular-leaning opposition protesters, who had besieged the building in their tens of thousands on Tuesday, fled the area, an AFP photographer said.
As clashes took place outside, Vice President Mahmud Mekki told reporters at the presidential palace that a contested referendum over a constitution drafted by an Islamist-leaning panel would proceed on December 15 as planned.
The vote “will go ahead on time,” he said, and invited the opposition to put their objections to articles in the constitution in writing for future discussion.
“This is not a formal initiative but a personal idea,” he told journalists.
Tens of thousands of opposition protesters had besieged the presidential palace on Tuesday demanding that Mursi go, opposing the charter and with some calling for a boycott of the referendum.
The unrest was sparked by a presidential decree on November 22 granting Mursi sweeping new powers and was exacerbated by the draft charter, which opponents and activists say paves the way for a strict interpretation of Islamic law and fails to guarantee religious and press freedoms.

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