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Rival demonstrations across Egypt

Source BBC News@

President Mohammed Morsi's supporters rally in Cairo. Photo: 21 June 2013President Morsi's supporters reject opposition demands for him to resign

Egypt is bracing for rival mass demonstrations, amid tight security in the increasingly polarised nation.

President Mohammed Morsi's supporters are to hold "open-ended' rallies - two days ahead of the opposition protests calling for the president to resign.

Mr Morsi in a speech marking his first year in office warned that the continuing unrest was "threatening to paralyse" Egypt.

Troops have been deployed in the capital Cairo and other cities.

Ahead of Mr Morsi's speech late on Wednesday, deadly clashes broke out in the northern city of Mansoura.

Two people were killed and 170 injured in fighting between supporters and opponents of the government.

Mr Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, became Egypt's first Islamist president on 30 June 2012, after winning an election considered free and fair.

His first year in office has been marred by constant political unrest and a sinking economy.

'Back on track'

Mohammed Morsi's year in review

  • June 2012 - Narrowly wins presidential election. Orders parliament to meet in defiance of a military decree dissolving it

  • July 2012 - Submits to a Supreme Court ruling that the parliamentary elections were invalid

  • August 2012 - Dismisses Defence Minister Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Sami Annan and strips military of say in legislation and drafting the new constitution

  • November 2012 - Rescinds a decree stripping the judiciary of the right to challenge his decisions, after popular protests

  • December 2012 - Public vote approves draft constitution boosting the role of Islam and restricting freedom of speech and assembly

  • March 2013 - Court halts his plans to bring parliamentary elections forward to April, citing failure to refer the electoral law to the Constitutional Court

  • June 2013 - Puts Islamist in charge of 13 of Egypt's 27 governorships - controversially he appoints a member of the former armed group Gamaa Islamiya to be governor of Luxor

On Friday, thousands of Mr Morsi's loyalists are expected to rally in Cairo support of his "legitimacy", rejecting the opposition's demand for him to resign.

Some opposition groups are also due to stage demonstrations in the capital.

The main opposition coalition on Thursday rejected President Morsi's offer for dialogue.

In a statement, the National Salvation Front said it "remained determined to call for an early presidential election".

"We are confident the Egyptian people will come out in their millions to hold peaceful demonstrations on all of Egypt's squares and streets to realise their aspirations and to put the 25 January revolution back on track," it added.

The opposition was referring to the popular uprising in January 2011 which ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

'Enemies of Egypt'

On Wednesday, President Morsi defended his performance, admitting errors and promising immediate and radical reforms to address them.

"I was right in some cases, and wrong in other cases," he said. "I have discovered after a year in charge that for the revolution to achieve its goals, it needs radical measures."

He apologised for the fuel shortages that have caused long lines at petrol stations and angered many Egyptians, and also for failing to involve the nation's youth enough.

But despite Mr Morsi's initial conciliatory tone, the speech swiftly moved into a condemnation of those he blamed for Egypt's problems, the BBC's Aleem Maqbool in Cairo reports.

"I took responsibility for a country mired in corruption and was faced with a war to make me fail," he said, naming several officials he believed wanted to "turn the clock back" to the Mubarak era, including politicians, judges and a journalists.

"Political polarisation and conflict has reached a stage that threatens our nascent democratic experience and threatens to put the whole nation in a state of paralysis and chaos," he warned.

"The enemies of Egypt have not spared effort in trying to sabotage the democratic experience."

Mr Morsi called on opposition figures to "enter elections if you want to change the government" and criticised them for refusing to take part in a national dialogue.

The head of the army earlier warned it would not allow Egypt to slip into "uncontrollable conflict".

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