A breakthrough to resolve Egypt’s crisis over disputed constitution articles was imminent, the country’s Vice President Mahmoud Mekky said in a news conference in Cairo on Wednesday.
Mekky urged for amendments to be made until consensus is reached ahead of Dec. 15 referendum, and said “consensus” is mandatory.
“There must be consensus,” he said, expecting a dialogue to begin soon with the opposition to end the crisis.
“The demands of opposition protesters must be respected,” he advised, adding “I am completely confident that if not in the coming hours, in the next few days we will reach a breakthrough in the crisis and consensus.”
He also confirmed that the referendum “will go ahead on time,” and called on the opposition to write down their objections against the constitution they do not approve for future discussion.
Meanwhile, supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Mursi scuffled on Wednesday outside the presidential palace in Cairo, hurling stones and other objects at each other.
The president’s backers tore down tents erected by opponents of Mursi who began a sit-in on Tuesday against the president’s expanded powers and his decision to race through a new constitution they said did not represent the whole nation.
Egyptian politicians Amr Moussa and Mohamed ElBaradei said on Wednesday that it is President’s Mursi’s responsibility to protect peaceful demonstrations.
Ex-IAEA chief Mohamed ElBaradei said on his Twitter account Mursi should protect protesters outside his palace to keep “what remains of his legitimacy.”
The news comes as hundreds of protesters woke up Wednesday in front of the presidential palace, the new focus of protests against Mursi recent constitutional declaration.
Islamist President Mursi returned to work on Wednesday, a day after slipping out of the palace when it came under siege from protesters furious about his drive to push through a new constitution.
Mahmoud Ghozlan, spokesman for the Brotherhood, was quoted on the group’s Facebook page as saying the abuses were committed by groups that “imagined they could shake legitimacy or impose their view with force”.
On Tuesday, tens of the thousands marched on the upscale neighborhood of Heliopolis, culminating in a dramatic siege of the palace, in scenes not witnessed even during demonstrations that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year.
Hundreds more Mursi opponents spent the night in Cairo’s iconic Tahrir Square under dozens of tents erected almost two weeks ago.
Activists used social networking sites to appeal for blankets and food for the protesters who said they won’t leave until Mursi rescinds a decree expanding his powers.
Tuesday’s protests were the latest in a string of actions opposed to Mursi’s Nov. 22 decree, which expanded his powers and enabled him to call a mid-December referendum on a draft constitution drawn up by an Islamist-dominated panel and rejected by liberals, leftists and Christians.
Clinton says dialogue urgently needed
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton urged Egyptians on Wednesday to discuss their differences over a new constitution, saying there was an urgent need for dialogue.
“The upheaval we are seeing now once again in the streets of Cairo and other cities indicates that dialogue is urgently needed,” Clinton told a news conference after a NATO meeting in Brussels.
Clinton called for “respectful exchanges of views and concerns among Egyptians themselves about the constitutional process and the substance of the constitution” and said it was important that the courts were allowed to function.
Egyptians deserved a constitution that protected the rights of everyone, “men and women, Muslim and Christian, and ensures Egypt will uphold all of its international obligations,” she added.
Clinton had also called for a constitutional process that was “open, transparent and fair and does not unduly favor one group over any other.”