Cairo: Egypt's main Islamist parties, including President Mohammed Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood, on Saturday rejected opposition demands to delay a referendum on a new constitution, as the military called for dialogue to resolve the crisis plaguing the deeply polarised nation.
The 13 parties "insist that the referendum on the constitution take place on the scheduled date (December 15), with no modification or delay," according to a joint statement.
Khairat al-Shater, the number two of the Muslim Brotherhood, read out the statement to the media.
Meanwhile Egypt's military today warned of "disastrous consequences" if the political crisis gripping the country is not resolved through dialogue.
"The Armed Forces watches with sorrow and concern the developments of the current circumstances, and the status of the divisions and unfortunate events threatening the pillars of the Egyptian state and the national security," a military statement said.
The statement urged all political forces to pursue dialogue.
"We support national dialogue, and serious and sincere democratic process on the debatable issues and points, to reach consensus," it said.
"The dialogue approach is the best way and the only access to consensus on the interest of the nation and citizens. The opposite would get us into a dark tunnel with disastrous consequences, which we will not allow," it added.
The statement also said that the loyalty of the Egyptian armed forces is for the people. "The military institution always sides with the great people of Egypt, and is keen on their unity," it said.
An army spokesperson further called on all citizens to maintain the security and safety of the nation and place Egypt's interest above all, in the framework of "legal legitimacy and democratic rules which agreed upon and accepted to move to the future on that basis."
The military statement came as demonstrators fenced off an administrative building in Tahrir Square angry over President Mursi's attempts to push through a new constitution.
The statement rejecting delaying of the referendum was
signed by the political wing of the Muslim Brotherhood, the Freedom and Justice Party, as well as the Al-Nour party representing hardline Salafists.
Amid a lingering political crisis in Egypt, an uneasy calm prevailed on the streets here after massive overnight protests against the constitutional decree that gave sweeping powers to Mursi.
There was a notable increase in the number of protesters' tents in the vicinity of the presidential palace today.
The protesters said that they would not end their sit-in till the annulment of the constitutional declaration and referendum on new constitution.
Overnight, more than 10,000 Egyptian opposition protesters broke through an army barricade to march on the presidential palace, demanding Mursi to call off the controversial constitutional referendum that sparked the worst violence since he assumed power in June.
Soldiers, however, prevented the protesters from nearing the presidential palace's main gate. The crowd gradually reduced to a hard core of protesters.
Earlier yesterday, supporters of Mursi held their own march in Cairo. There was no repeat yesterday of the violent clashes that took place on Wednesday between the two sides when seven people died and more than 640 were hurt.
President Mursi was set to issue a law that will give judicial and protective powers to the military, according to the state-run Al-Ahram.
Drafted with the participation of army leaders, the law will task the armed forces with maintaining security and protecting vital installations in the state, until a new constitution takes effect and legitimate parliamentary elections are held.
Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said yesterday that President Mursi is prepared to delay the referendum on the draft constitution on the condition that his decision cannot be challenged in a court of law.
"We are ruled by the article (in the constitutional declaration), which compels the president to put a draft of the constitution to referendum in a period not exceeding fifteen days," Mekky was quoted by Al-Masry Al-Youm as saying.
Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood Supreme Guide Mohamed Badie said that the group does not replace state institutions, and the Guidance Bureau does not rule Egypt in lieu of the presidency.
Badie said in a press conference held this morning at the group's Cairo headquarters, "We are not performing the role of state institutions, but we defend them against those who want to sabotage them, and we sacrifice ourselves and help the security services".
Badie's statement comes in response to criticism of the group after its supporters marched to the presidential palace last Wednesday under the pretext of protecting it from the "saboteurs" storming it.
The group's supporters clashed with anti-Brotherhood demonstrators, leading to several deaths.
"If we appoint ourselves to replace state institutions," Badie said, adding, "we would have demanded the removal of the Republican Guards".
In response to the rumours that the Brotherhood Supreme Guide is ruling Egypt and directing Mursi in his decisions, Badie pointed to himself and asked, "Is this the man ruling Egypt? And his headquarters burned and stormed?"
Badie called on all Egyptian political forces to renounce violence, pointing to recent stormings of Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party headquarters in a number of governorates.
Badie called the recent events "criminality, not opposition," and called on political leaders disallow violence, adding that some of the current opposition forces have benefited from the support of the Muslim Brotherhood in the past.
"Be angry at Brotherhood, but without hurting the interests of the nation," Badie said, calling on citizens to return to "legitimacy and institutional work".
Badie further claimed that eight people were killed in the recent clashes in front of the presidential palace, and that all of them were from the Muslim Brotherhood.
He also alleged that 28 offices belonging to the group have been burned down throughout Egypt in the past several days, in addition to the Freedom and Justice newspaper's headquarters.
Badie levelled harsh criticism at the media, saying they "promoted lies" and that the money they earned was "haram" and would hurt their families.
However, he also held up the Egypt 25 channel as a model of honesty. The channel is run by the Muslim Brotherhood.
First Published: Saturday, December 08, 2012, 08:47