A woman walks in front of a mural of depicting Muslims that reads 'Power and wealth to the people', in front of the presidential palace in Cairo December. REUTERS/Mohamed Abd El Ghany
An Egyptian military deployment around the presidential
palace aims to secure the building, the state news agency
reported, following violent protests between supporters and
opponents of President Mohamed Mursi in the area.
"The Republican Guard began a deployment around the
headquarters of the presidency ... to secure the headquarters
of the presidency in its capacity as a symbol of the state
and the official headquarters of government," the agency
Reuters witnesses counted at least five tanks and nine
armoured personnel carriers around the presidency.
The Republican Guard is responsible for guarding presidential
offices across the country.
Earlier, Islamists fought protesters outside the Egyptian
president's palace, while inside the building his deputy
proposed a way to end a crisis over a draft constitution that
has split the most populous Arab nation.
Stones and petrol bombs flew between opposition protesters
and supporters of President Mohamed Mursi who had flocked to
the palace in response to a call from the Muslim Brotherhood.
Two Islamists were hit in the legs by what their friends said
were bullets fired during the clashes in streets around the
compound in northern Cairo. One of them was bleeding heavily.
A leftist group said Islamists had cut off the ear of one of
its members. Medical sources said 23 people had been wounded
Riot police deployed between the two sides to try to stop the
confrontations which flared after dark despite an attempt by
Vice President Mahmoud Mekky to calm the political crisis.
He said amendments to disputed articles in the draft
constitution could be agreed with the opposition. A written
agreement could then be submitted to the next parliament, to
be elected after a referendum on the constitution on Dec. 15.
"There must be consensus," he told a news conference, saying
opposition demands had to be respected to reach a solution.
Facing the gravest crisis of his six-month-old tenure, Mursi
has shown no sign of buckling, confident that Islamists can
win the referendum and a parliamentary election to follow.
Many Egyptians yearn for an end to political upheaval that
has scared off investors and tourists, damaging the economy.
Egypt's opposition coalition blamed Mursi for the violence
around his palace and said it was ready for dialogue if the
Islamist leader scrapped a decree he issued on Nov. 22 that
gave him wide powers and shielded his decisions from judicial
"We hold President Mursi and his government completely
responsible for the violence happening in Egypt today,"
opposition coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei told a news
"We are ready for dialogue if the constitutional decree is
cancelled ... and the referendum on this constitution is
postponed," he said of the document written by an
Islamist-led assembly that the opposition says ignores its
"Today what is happening in the Egyptian street, polarisation
and division, is something that could and is actually drawing
us to violence and could draw us to something worse," the
former head of the U.N. nuclear watchdog added.
Opposition leaders have previously urged Mursi to retract the
Nov. 22 decree, defer the referendum and agree to revise the
constitution, but have not echoed calls from street
protesters for his overthrow and the "downfall of the
Mursi has said his decree was needed to prevent courts still
full of judges appointed by ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak
from derailing a constitution vital for Egypt's political
Rival groups skirmished outside the presidential palace
earlier on Wednesday. Islamist supporters of Mursi tore down
tents erected by leftist foes, who had begun a sit-in there.
"They hit us and destroyed our tents. Are you happy, Mursi?
Aren't we Egyptians too?" asked protester Haitham Ahmed.
Mohamed Mohy, a pro-Mursi demonstrator who was filming the
scene, said: "We are here to support our president and his
decisions and save our country from traitors and agents."
Mekky said street mobilisation by both sides posed a "real
danger" to Egypt. "If we do not put a stop to this phenomenon
right away ... where are we headed? We must calm down."
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton weighed into Egypt's
political debate, saying dialogue was urgently needed on the
new constitution, which should "respect the rights of all
Clinton and Mursi worked together last month to broker a
truce between Israel and Hamas Islamists in the Gaza Strip.
"It needs to be a two-way dialogue ... among Egyptians
themselves about the constitutional process and the substance
of the constitution," Clinton told a news conference in
Washington is worried about rising Islamist power in Egypt, a
staunch U.S. security partner under Mubarak, who preserved
the U.S.-brokered peace treaty Cairo signed with Israel in
The Muslim Brotherhood had summoned supporters to an
open-ended demonstration at the presidential palace, a day
after about 10,000 opposition protesters had encircled it for
what organisers dubbed a "last warning" to Mursi.
"The people want the downfall of the regime," they chanted,
roaring the signature slogan of last year's anti-Mubarak
The "last warning" may turn out to be one of the last gasps
for a disparate opposition that has little chance of
scuttling next week's vote on the draft constitution.
State institutions, with the partial exception of the
judiciary, have mostly fallen in behind Mursi.
The army, the muscle behind all previous Egyptian presidents
in the republic's six-decade history, has gone back to
barracks, having apparently lost its appetite to intervene in
In a bold move, Mursi sacked Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the
Mubarak-era army commander and defence minister, in August
and removed the sweeping powers that the military council,
which took over after Mubarak fell, had grabbed two months
The liberals, leftists, Christians, ex-Mubarak followers and
others opposed to Mursi have yet to generate a mass movement
or a grassroots political base to challenge the Brotherhood.
Investors have seized on hopes that Egypt's turbulent
transition, which has buffeted the economy for two years, may
soon head for calmer waters, sending stocks 1.6 percent
higher after a 3.5 percent rally on Tuesday.
Egypt has turned to the IMF for a $4.8 billion loan after the
depletion of its foreign currency reserves. The government
said on Wednesday the process was on track and its request
would go to the IMF board as expected.
The board is due to review the facility on Dec. 19.
Elijah Zarwan, a fellow with the European Council on Foreign
Relations, said that if Egypt was to find a compromise
solution to its crisis, it would not be through slogans and
"It will be through quiet negotiation, not through duelling
press conferences, street brawls, or civil strife."