Cairo: Egypt was on the edge on Monday as protest rallies demanding Mohammed Mursi`s ouster and early elections kicked off across the deeply polarised country on the first anniversary of his presidency, raising fears of an escalation in violence.
The grassroots Tamarod (`Rebellion` in Arabic) movement is driving the protest campaign with a petition of signatures seeking Mursi`s ouster and a snap election, which has united liberal and secular opposition groups, including the National Salvation Front.
However, many ordinary Egyptians - angered by Mursi`s political and economic policies - are also taking part in the rally.
Opposition activists say more than 22 million people have signed the petition and have urged the signatories to come out in Cairo`s Tahrir Square.
Thousands spent the night at Tahrir Square, focus of the Arab Spring protests which brought down ex-leader Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
The current protests come on the first anniversary of Mursi`s election as the country`s first Islamist president.
61-year-old Mursi`s opponents say he has failed to tackle economic and security problems.
Critics also say he has put the Islamist agenda of his Muslim Brotherhood party ahead of the country`s wider interests.
In Cairo, anti-Mursi supporters waving red cards chanted: "Irhal! Irhal!" ("Leave! Leave!").
According to a media report, President`s supporters opened fire on protesters in Upper Egypt, killing one person and injuring scores.
According to Egyptian websites over 170 people have been injured nationwide so far.
The rallies from the square and elsewhere in Alexandria are expected to move later in the day to the central Sidi Gaber area.
The Suez Canal city of Port Said, in north-east Egypt, is expected to see similar rallies today.
A big stage has been erected in the city`s main square, with protesters checking the identities of those going in and out of the square.
There are similar rallies in Suez, Monofia and Sharqiya - the birthplace of Mursi.
Supporters of the president are also holding their own rallies.
Meanwhile, Egyptian presidency urged all political forces, currently demonstrating in rival mass rallies countrywide, to commit to peaceful protest, insists `dialogue` is only way out of impasse.
"The presidency has called on political parties for dialogue more than once," said a presidential spokesman at a news conference.
"Dialogue is the only way to reach consensus," he added. "The presidency aims to reach serious national reconciliation to pull the country out of its current state of polarisation."
The presidency stressed that the president and the Egyptian people "would never accept western interference in Egypt`s internal affairs." The comment was in response to a question about US President Barack Obama`s calls for the presidency and opposition to enter dialogue.
Thousands spent the night at Tahrir Square, focus of the Arab Spring protests which brought down Hosni Mubarak regime.
Morsi`s opponents say he has failed to tackle economic and security problems. Critics also say he has put the Islamist agenda of his Muslim Brotherhood party ahead of the country`s wider interests.
In Cairo, anti-Morsi supporters waving red cards chanted: "Irhal! Irhal!" ("Leave! Leave!"). Similar rallies were held in Alexandria, Kafr al-Sheikh, Sidi Salem, Damietta, Gharbiya, Suez, Sharqiya - the birthplace of Morsi, and other cities.
The opposition National Salvation Front said protesters will remain in the streets until the fall of the regime.
Muslim Brotherhood`s political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, also vowed the pro-Morsi coalition will remain in sit-ins to defend until opposition end their rallies.
Egyptian presidency urged all political forces to commit to peaceful protest, insisting `dialogue` is only way out of impasse. "Dialogue is the only way to reach consensus," said a presidential spokesman yesterday.