Cairo: Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Mursi on Monday held talks with the nation's top judges and told them that he acted within his rights when he issued a series of decrees granting him sweeping powers.
His decision to hold powers amidst criticism increased agitaion in Cairo. Thousands of protesters on Tuesday clashed with the police as they used tera gas to deter them.
The meeting which was aimed at calming down the anger is now likely to trigger a prolonged showdown with the Opposition.
According to Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali, Mursi assured the judges that the decrees did not in any way "infringe" on the judiciary.
Ali's comments signalled Mursi's resolve not to back down or compromise on the steps he announced on Thursday, putting himself and a body writing a new Constitution above the judiciary.
Mursi's opponents and supporters plan rival rallies on Tuesday in Cairo.
"President Mursi is very optimistic that Egyptians will overcome this challenge as they have overcome other challenges," the BBC had quoted spokesman Yasser Ali as saying ahead of today’s meeting with members of the Supreme Judicial Council.
Earlier today, Egypt's Justice Minister said that a resolution was "imminent" to the political crisis over President Mursi's decree.
Ahmed Mekki has been mediating between the judiciary and the presidency to try to defuse the crisis, although he did not say on what he based his prediction for its impending resolution.
Opposition activists have denounced Mursi's decrees as a blatant power grab, and refused to enter a dialogue with the presidency before the edicts are rescinded. The President has vigorously defended the new powers, saying they are necessary to implement badly needed reforms and protect Egypt's transition to democracy.
The dispute over the decrees, the latest in the country's bumpy transition to democracy, has taken a toll on the nation's already ailing economy — Egypt's benchmark stock index dropped more than 9.5 percentage points on Sunday, the first day of trading since Mursi's announcement. It fell again Monday during early trading but recovered to close up by 2.6 percentage points.
It has also played out in urban street protests across the country, including in the capital Cairo and the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria.
The Health Ministry said on Monday that a total of 444 people have been wounded nationwide since the clashes erupted on Friday. Forty-nine of these remain hospitalised, it said in a statement carried by official news agency MENA.
In the Nile Delta city of Damanhoor, a teenager was killed late Sunday and at least 40 people were wounded when a group of anti-Mursi protesters tried to storm the local offices of the political arm of the president's fundamentalist Muslim Brotherhood, the most powerful political force in Egypt.
It was the first reported death from the street battles over the decrees, officials said on condition of anonymity because they were not authorised to speak to the media.
On Monday, thousands gathered in Damanhoor for the teenager's funeral, while in Cairo thousands more marched through Tahrir square for the funeral of another young Egyptian killed in clashes with police in the capital. Tahrir was the birthplace of last year's uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak.
An informal truce between the police and protesters staging a sit-in in the square allowed the funeral to go ahead peacefully. The sit-in, which has hundreds of participants, is aimed at forcing Mursi to back down.
Mursi's office said in a statement that he had ordered the country's top prosecutor to investigate the teenager's death, along with that of the man killed in Cairo last week during demonstrations to mark the anniversary of deadly protests last year that called for an end to the then-ruling military.
(With Agency inputs)
First Published: Monday, November 26, 2012, 09:16