Egypt President stands by decrees, triggers showdown

Egypt's Islamist president Mohammed Morsi has told the nation's top judges that he acted within his rights when he issued a series of decrees giving him sweeping powers, according to his spokesman.

Such a stand is likely to trigger a prolonged showdown with the opposition.

Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters Monday that Mohammed Morsi assured the judges that the decrees did not in any way "infringe" on the judiciary.

Ali's comments signalled Morsi's resolve not to back down or compromise on the steps he announced Thursday, putting himself and a body writing a new constitution above the judiciary.

Earlier, protesters said only retracting the decree will satisfy them, a sign of the deep rift between Islamists and their opponents that is destabilising Egypt two years after Hosni Mubarak was ousted.

"There is no use amending the decree," said Tarek Ahmed, 26, a protester who stayed the night in Tahrir. "It must be scrapped."

One person has been killed and about 370 injured in clashes between police and protesters since Morsi issued the decree, shielding his decisions from judicial review, emboldened by international plaudits for brokering an end to eight days of violence between Israel and Hamas.

The stock market is down more than 7 per cent as a result of the clashes.

Morsi's administration too defended his decision over the decree as an effort to speed up reforms and complete a democratic transformation.

Leftists, liberals, socialists and others said it had exposed the autocratic impulses of a man once jailed by Mubarak.

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