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Bowing to protests, Egypt’s President moves to modify contentious decree, PM says

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An Egyptian protester holds up a battle of oil and a bag of sugar as he chants against Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi outside the presidential palace under a banner with a defaced picture of Mr. Morsi and Arabic that reads “the people want to bring down the regime,” in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Dec. 8, 2012.

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is preparing to amend a controversial decree in which he assumed sweeping powers, Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said on Saturday.

Mr. Morsi tasked six officials who met on Saturday with elements of the opposition to “modify the constitutional declaration” he issued on November 22, Mr. Qandil said on the private Al-Mihwar television channel.

The officials, among them politicians and members of the judiciary, “met to draft a new text [decree] and could finalize it late on Saturday or on Sunday morning,” he added.

Mr. Morsi also said he wished to discuss the possibility of postponing a referendum on a draft constitution that the opposition said was rushed through by a panel dominated by Islamists.

Mr. Morsi’s November 22 decree – which put his decisions beyond judicial review – sparked Egypt’s current political crisis, which has seen deadly clashes between his Islamist supporters and secular-leaning opponents.

Seven people died and more than 600 were injured on Wednesday night in clashes between the two sides outside the presidential palace, and army tanks were deployed to keep demonstrators at bay.

The new draft charter, approved by an Islamist-dominated panel, boycotted by liberals and Christians and objected to by the opposition on the grounds that it limits freedom of expression, women’s rights and freedom of worship, is set for a popular referendum on December 15.

Opposition leaders have said they will only take part in talks if the referendum is postponed and Mr. Morsi repeals his decree.

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