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Fresh protests called as Morsy stays defiant

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New protests were called for Cairo on Friday after Egypt's Islamist President Mohamed Morsy vowed to forge on with a controversial constitutional referendum and condemned street violence that has gripped the capital.

More clashes were feared after bloody confrontations on Wednesday between pro- and anti-Morsi protesters that left seven people dead and more than 600 injured.

The scene early Friday in front of Morsy's presidential palace - the focus of demonstrations this week - was calm, but heavily militarised.

Around a dozen tanks and armoured troops carriers were deployed in the vicinity, with soldiers and riot police massed behind barbed wire barricades. An offer Morsi made in a broadcast speech overnight to hold talks on Saturday with the opposition was rejected by the largely secular coalition ranged against him, which is demanding he rescind sweeping new powers decreed last month that set him above the law.

It said it would instead step up its campaign against Morsi's decree, and the referendum set for December 15.

The opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, issued a statement saying "the fact that the presidency... persists in ignoring the demands and protests of the people has closed the door on any attempt for dialogue." AFP

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