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Thousands rally for Mursi as rifts widens

CAIRO: Thousands rallied yesterday in support of President Muhammad Mursi’s new expanded powers and the drafting of a contested charter.
The demonstration in the heart of Cairo comes a day after tens of thousands of Mursi opponents converged on Tahrir Square to protest against the president’s decree and the speedy adoption of the draft constitution.
The charter has taken center stage in the country’s worst political crisis since Mursi’s election in June. It is expected to go to a popular referendum within two weeks.
Members of the constituent assembly handed Mursi the final draft of the constitution adopted after a marathon overnight session on Thursday that was boycotted by liberals, seculars and Christians.
Thousands of pro-Mursi demonstrators gathered at Cairo University, with riot police on standby and roadblocks in place.
Veiled women were among the protesters who carried Egyptian flags and posters of Mursi, with banners reading “Together (with Mursi) to save the revolution”.
“There are people who want instability,” said demonstrator Khaled, referring to anti-Mursi protesters. “There needs to be a constitution for there to be stability.”
Pro-Mursi protests were also staged in the Mediterranean city of Alexandria and the central Egyptian province of Assiut.
The Muslim Brotherhood and their supporters have branded the opposition as enemies of the revolution that toppled longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Across the Nile river, hundreds of protesters camping out in Tahrir Square since Mursi issued a decree expanding his powers were expected to be joined by more demonstrators throughout the day.
The National Rescue Front — a coalition of opponents led by dissident former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, ex-Arab League chief Amr Mussa and former presidential candidate Hamdeen Sabbahi — has called on the decree’s opponents to keep up the pressure.
It has called on Egyptians to “reject the illegitimate” decree and the “void” draft constitution, and stressed the public’s right “to use any peaceful method to protest including a general strike and civil disobedience”.
The crisis was sparked when Mursi issued the decree on Nov. 22 giving himself sweeping powers and placing his decisions beyond judicial review, provoking mass protests and a judges’ strike.
In an interview broadcast Thursday night, Mursi stressed again his new powers would expire once the constitution was ratified.
The Brotherhood and the secular-leaning opposition had stood side by side in Tahrir Square in 2011 as they fought to bring down Mubarak and his regime.