Rival protests take to Cairo streets as crisis deepens
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Supporters and opponents of the government of President Mohammed Morsi staged competing demonstrations on Friday after noon prayers, throwing Egypt deeper into political crisis.
Thousands of pro-government Islamists attended the funeral of two men killed in clashes on Wednesday outside the presidential palace, the site of continuing demonstrations by the opposition. "With blood and soul, we redeem Islam," they chanted, while calling opposition leaders "murderers" the Associated Press reported.
Simultaneously, thousands of opposition protesters streamed in separate marches toward the presidential palace, gathering there to shout "Leave!, Leave," even though Morsi does not make his residence in the building. Speakers accused the Muslim Brotherhood, which Morsi once helped lead, of sparking the violence by sending "hired thugs" to destroy a tent camp set up by the president's opponents, the news agency reported.
Rival protests were reported throughout the country, including Alexandria in the Nile delta, the tourist centre of Luxor and Assiut, in the south, AP said.
News reports quoted several leaders of the opposition coalition as saying they would not join the dialogue proposed by Morsi in a speech Thursday in which he blamed the outbreak of violence on a "fifth column." He also vowed to proceed with a referendum on an Islamist-backed constitution that has prompted deadly street battles between his supporters and their opponents.
Morsi spoke a day after the growing antagonism between his supporters and secular opposition triggered the worst outbreak of violence between political factions here since Gamal Abdel Nasser's coup six decades ago. By the time the fighting ended, six people were dead and hundreds were wounded.
Some observers said the president speech echoed his predecessor, Mubarak, who always saw "hidden hands" behind public unrest.
Several prominent opposition figures, including Mohamed ElBaradei, former head of the International Atomic Energy Agency, said they would not participate.
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