Egypt's Mohammed El Baradei ruled out any possibility of dialogue with President Mohammed Morsi unless he rescinds a recent controversial decree granting him an array of new powers, reported the Associated Press.
The comments from the Nobel Peace laureate come alongside criticism from Egyptian judges, who today accused Morsi of waging an "unprecedented attack" on the judiciary, reported BBC News.
The decree in question has seen significant public backlash, sparking mass protests in Cairo and Alexandria which Morsi responded to in a speech claiming a more empowered leader allows for greater "freedom and democracy" in Egypt.
But El Baradei, a member of the opposition National Salvation Front coalition, told journalists today that with unrest growing, he can only hope for "smooth transition without plunging the country into a cycle of violence," said AP.
The president's Friday speech did not succeed in checking rising public anger, with riot police spraying tear gas at anti-Morsi demonstrators outside a Cairo court earlier today while the outraged Supreme Judicial Council issued a statement decrying an "attack on the independence of the judiciary," said BBC.
Morsi's Thursday declaration, which the judges have called on him to reverse, largely exempts him from judicial power and insulates him from the demands of the influential constituent assembly.
It also means that judges cannot overturn any presidential decrees until there's a new constitution, a process with no end in sight as Egypt's divided political factions cannot even unite behind a draft, and bars them from dissolving parliament. (The judiciary has done both in past months, noted the Associated Press.)
Separately, Egypt's Judges Club today called for a protest strike in all courts and prosecution activity, effective immediately, said Reuters.
The frustration felt by the judiciary is shared by the opposition, with 22 human rights organizations voicing their "unequivocal rejection of the constitutional declaration" in a statement released today echoing sentiment like this:
In light of staunch & broad opposition, Morsishould rescind his "power grab" constitutional declaration b4 situation gets out of hand
— Mohamed ElBaradei (@ElBaradei) November 23, 2012
Also today, the president's Muslim Brotherhood party said they are organizing a major pro-Morsi protest for Tuesday, said Reuters. Opposition parties are also planning to stage demonstrations that day, setting the stage for competing protests like those seen in Cairo on Friday.