Egypt’s opposition coalition rejected on Friday a dialogue proposed by President Mohammed Mursi to defuse bloody protests over sweeping powers he assumed to speed through a new constitution.
The National Salvation Front said it had decided “to refuse to take part in a dialogue proposed by the president for tomorrow, Saturday.”
Opponents of President Mursi vowed to take on the capital’s streets to protest against the leader expanding his power, Al Arabiya correspondent reported Friday.
The coordination committee, which is grouping anti-Mursi parties and movements, is planning 17 marches to head to the presidential palace after Friday prayers. The committee dubbed the Friday protests as the “final ultimatum” if Mursi doesn’t back off from his constitutional declaration.
The Constitution Party, Egyptian Popular Current, the Revolutionary Socialist Movement, April 6 Movement, the Egyptian Liberal Party and the Egyptian Social Democratic Party said they are collaborating to go on in a one-million-man march, they described as “red card” to Mursi.
Hundreds of protesters gathered in Cairo’s Tahrir square in response to calls by the April 6 movement, which played a prominent role in igniting last year’s revolt. It wants to show Mursi a “red card”, using a soccer metaphor for his dismissal.
Elsewhere, thousands of Islamists gathered at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque for the funeral of “martyrs” killed in the clashes. “Our souls and blood, we sacrifice to Islam,” they chanted.
Early Friday, some demonstrators were already grouping in Tahrir Square to get ready for the Friday protest.
Mursi has defied calls to curb his sweeping powers or suspend proposed changes to the constitution, infuriating thousands of protesters who have clashed bloodily with his supporters in recent days.
In an address broadcast live on Thursday, Morsi vowed to push on with a December 15 referendum on the controversial new constitution, saying “afterwards, there should be no obstacle and everyone must follow its will.”
As he was wrapping up his speech, protesters stormed the Cairo villa housing the headquarters of the Muslim Brotherhood which backed him for the presidency.
“Two hundred thugs went to the headquarters. Security tried to prevent them, but some got through the back door, ransacked it and set it on fire,” AFP reported Brotherhood spokesman Mahmud Ghozlan as saying.
Police outside the three-storey building said it was a limited blaze and that riot officers had pushed demonstrators back.
An AFP correspondent at the scene said there were fierce clashes between hundreds of stick-wielding protesters and police, who fired tear gas.
Seven people died in clashes between Mursi’s Islamist supporters and his mainly secular opponents on Wednesday in Egypt’s worst political crisis since Mursi took office in June. Another 644 people were injured, medical officials said.
The army on Thursday ordered the square in front of the presidential palace cleared of protesters from sides, deploying tanks and setting up barbed wire.
In his speech, Mursi said more than 80 people had been arrested.
He railed against the “aggression,” implying the opposition protesters were to blame.
“Some attacked cars of the presidency, seriously injuring one of their drivers, who is still in hospital,” he said.
“We respect peaceful freedom of speech but I will never allow anyone to resort to killing and sabotage.”
Mursi offered to hold dialogue with the opposition and to meet their representatives on Saturday in his offices, but there was no immediate indication of compromise judging by his speech on Thursday.
But Hussein Abdel Ghani, spokesman for the opposition group the National Rescue Front, dismissed Mursi’s gesture, saying “the president lost a historic chance to act like a president for all Egypt.”
He added: “We will continue to escalate (protests), using peaceful means.”
Meanwhile, the White House said President Barack Obama has called Mursi to express “deep concern” about the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt.
A White House statement says the president told Mursi that he and other political leaders in Egypt must make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable.