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Opposition rejects Morsi's call for dialogue as protests continue

After violent protests outside the presidential palace in Egypt prompted the army to intervene, President Mohamed Morsi addressed the nation.

Opposition members in Egypt on Friday rejected President Mohamed Morsi's call for dialogue amid protests that have gripped parts of Cairo this week.

The National Salvation Front, a coalition of opposition groups, called for protests after Friday prayers, Agence France Presse reported.

"The National Salvation Front is not taking part in the dialogue, that is the official stance," Ahmed Said, a leading coalition member, said to Reuters.

The Egyptian army deployed tanks and began clearing demonstrators and media from outside the presidential palace on Thursday, after overnight clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi turned violent. Seven were said to have died in the demonstrations.

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi addressed the nation on Thursday, which also saw resignations by the director of state broadcasting, Essam El-Amir, and Rafik Habib, a Christian and formerly vice president of the Muslim Brotherhood’s Freedom and Justice Party. According to The New York Times, Habib was "the party’s favorite example of its commitment to tolerance and pluralism."

Thursday's resignations bring the total number of defections from Morsi's administration in recent days to nine.

Speaking on TV, Morsi said, "While we respect the right of freedom of expression ... I cannot tolerate that any person perpetrate any killing or vandalism," according to Reuters. He expressed sorrow for those killed on both sides in the violence and called for national dialogue.

Al Jazeera noted that Morsi made a distinction between those opposing the draft constitution and those "undermining Egypt," saying he would not allow calls for the overthrow of the government.

Morsi sought to allay concerns about the Nov. 22 decree that awarded him extraordinary powers, saying it could be rescinded after the referendum on the new constitution. He said the decree was chiefly put in place to shield "sovereign matters" from legal review, not aimed against the judiciary, according to Al Jazeera.

He reiterated that peaceful protests were protected if they did not disrupt government and industry. Morsi called for dialogue, scheduling a conference for December 8, to reconcile political differences.

Soldiers set up barricades around the presidential palace, after ordering protesters to leave the area by 3 p.m. local time, according to BBC News

Wednesday's clashes left five dead and 644 injured, BBC reported. Opposition activists have called for more protests outside the palace on Thursday, CBS News reported, though many had cleared the area by the deadline. 

Several dozen people continued to demonstrate across the street from the palace, chanting anti-Morsi slogans and calling for a larger rally Thursday night, the New York Daily News reported. Muslim Brotherhood members and other Islamist Morsi supporters left the area after staging a sit-in overnight.

Three of Morsi's advisers resigned Wednesday evening because of the conflict. GlobalPost correspondent Erin Cunningham, reporting from Egypt, named them as Ayman El Sayyad, Seif Abdel Fattah, and Amr El Leithy. "Another advisor, Coptic Christian Samir Morcos, resigned last week," she wrote.

The protests, which have been held outside the palace in the Cairo suburb of Heliopolis, are in response to a Nov. 22 decree by Morsi that grant the him sweeping powers to legislate without oversight. The opposition demands that he rescind the decree and abandon a controversial draft constitution that will be put to a referendum vote next week.

On Wednesday, Egypt's vice president, Mahmoud Mekki, told reporters Wednesday that Morsi's controversial constitutional decree remains in place and that a Dec. 15 referendum will proceed as planned.

"What's taking place now is surprising for a number of reasons. One, the clashes are taking place outside the presidential palace. Before yesterday, the palace had never been a focal point for protests — but now it's basically the frontline. People are taking their grievances literally to the doorstep of the president," Cunningham wrote yesterday.

"Second, it's the most intense violence that has taken place between pro-Morsi and Brotherhood or Islamist supporters and those who oppose Brotherhood rule, whether they are secular, liberal, etc."