Cairo, Jan 28 (PTI) :Egypt’s main opposition coalition today rejected as “waste of time” a call by Muhammed Mursi for a national dialogue to end a wave of unrest, a day after the embattled President declared an emergency in three riot-hit provinces following the death of nearly 50 people.
As a month-long state of emergency in the provinces of Port Said, Suez and Ismailiya was declared, the Cabinet today approved a draft law empowering the army to behave like a police force in “preserving security and protecting vital establishments”.
Nobel laureate Mohamed Elbaradei, after a meeting of the main opposition coalition National Salvation Front, said they would not participate in a dialogue that is “empty of content”.
ElBaradei, in a statement on Twitter earlier, called the “dialogue invitation a waste of time” and slammed the government for failing to admit responsibility for the recent violence and for not forming a new consensus-based government and Constituent Assembly.
The fresh violence broke out today near the iconic Tahrir Square in the heart of Cairo, the epicentre of anti-regime protests during Hosni Mubarak’s rule, leaving one person dead taking the toll to 48.
Over 700 people were also injured since the second anniversary of the Egyptian revolution on January 25.
Riot police fired tear gas at rock-throwing protesters in central Cairo today, hours after Mursi declared the emergency in the three governorates which have witnessed deadly clashes.
“I have said I am against any emergency measures but I have said that if I must stop bloodshed and protect the people then I will act,” Mursi said.
In a speech broadcast live on state TV, Mursi last night said he made these decisions after reviewing the Constitution, and that while he does not want to take extraordinary measures, he has been forced to do so, given the situation.
He warned that if violence continues, he would be forced to take stricter measures to protect the country.
“If I must I will do much more for the sake of Egypt.
This is my duty and I will not hesitate,” Mursi warned.
This is the first time for Mursi to take such measures, particularly the state of emergency.
Egypt was ruled under an emergency law for 30 years under Mubarak. The state of emergency gives police ultimate powers to question or detain citizens. The military council that ruled the country during its post-revolution transition lifted the emergency law in May 2011.
Mursi had invited Egyptian opposition leaders for talks to resolve the crisis. He also invited the Al-Dustur party founded by Elbaradei, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa, and Hamdeen Sabbahi, a presidential candidate in last year’s election.
The Freedom Egypt Party also criticised the speech, saying, “We hoped that the President’s priority was trying to heal the rift, and addressing the real roots of the crisis.”
The party said the president was instead “threatening” the country with “more extraordinary measures.”
On the other hand, Wasat Party spokesperson Tariq al-Malt described Mursy’s speech as “proper,” saying it was appropriate in terms of its content and language. “It seems that the institution of the presidency has started to work professionally,” he said.
Mursi last called for a national dialogue in December, when he faced fierce opposition to decrees he issued in November that extended his powers.