Mohammed Morsi
Mohammed Morsi AFP photo

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi said on Sunday that the sweeping new powers he has assumed are only temporary and called for dialogue to find common political ground, as he faces a showdown with judges over the path to a new constitution.

"The presidency reiterates the temporary nature of the said measures, which are not meant to concentrate power, but... to devolve it to a democratically elected parliament... as well as preserving the impartiality of the judiciary and to avoid politicizing it," a statement from Morsi's office said, according to AFP.

Under a constitutional declaration on Thursday, Morsi can issue "any decision or measure to protect the revolution," which are final and not subject to appeal.

The announcement touched off a showdown with the judges and sparked charges by the opposition that Morsi was taking on dictatorial powers.

The latest statement reaffirmed what was said on Thursday, that the measures would apply only until a new constitution is adopted and elections held.

It said it had been "deemed necessary in order to hold accountable those responsible for the corruption as well as the other crimes during the previous regime and during the transitional period," AFP reported.

That was a reference to the regime of long-time president Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted by a popular uprising early last year. Some 850 protesters were killed during the revolt, and hundreds more have died since.

Morsi ordered new investigations into those deaths, and new prosecutor general Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah said "revolutionary courts" would be set up that could see Mubarak, his sons and his top security chiefs retried "should there be new evidence."

Mubarak and his interior minister were sentenced to life over the killing of protesters in last year's popular uprising against him, but six security chiefs were acquitted in the same case sparking nationwide outrage.

Former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohamed ElBaradei, and former presidential candidates Hamdeen Sabbahi, Amr Moussa and Abdelmoneim Abul Futuh, said in a joint statement on Saturday that they would have no dialogue with Morsi until he rescinded his decree.

Tahrir Square, one of the capital's crossroads, remained closed to traffic on Sunday as Morsi opponents pressed a sit-in.

On the outskirts of the square, clashes between police and protesters entered their second week, with the violence occasionally spilling into the square.

On Friday, Morsi’s opponents staged a rally in Tahrir Square to denounce Morsi's power grab. Some clashed with police on the outskirts of the square. Earlier, protesters attacked Muslim Brotherhood offices in several cities, including in Alexandria.

Separately, hundreds of Morsi supporters demonstrated late on Sunday in front of mosques in Cairo and across the country in protests called for by the Muslim Brotherhood, from which the president hails, witnesses told AFP.

The Muslim Brotherhood has also called a "million man" demonstration on Tuesday, but has changed the location in an apparent bid to avoid clashes on the day.

The judges in Egypt have hit back at Morsi, denouncing "an unprecedented attack on the independence of the judiciary and its rulings," and calling for the courts to stop work nationwide.

Judges in two of the country's 27 provinces, including Mediterranean metropolis Alexandria, heeded the strike call on Sunday while those in the rest were meeting to decide their response, the Judges Club said.

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