EgyptIAN President Moha-med Morsi insisted last night that he would not be another dictator as he tried to calm violent opposition to a decree that grants him absolute powers.
As police continued to fight battles with protesters around Tahrir Square in Cairo, Mr Morsi issued a statement stressing that the power seizure was "temporary" and calling for political dialogue. He also agreed to meet Egypt's judges today to negotiate a solution to the crisis.
Mr Morsi outraged opponents last Thursday – less than 24 hours after winning international praise for negotiating a ceasefire between Israel and Hamas – by announcing that all his decisions would be beyond legal challenge.
He also unilaterally cancelled legal challenges to the committee drawing up a new constitution, as well as to the upper house of parliament, both of which are dominated by his Muslim Brotherhood backers.
Mr Morsi was condemned as a "new pharoah" and protesters, led by liberal and left- wing secular forces, continued a sit-in in Tahrir Square. Police drove them back from side roads with tear gas.
Opposition figures, including Mohammed El Baradei, the former head of the UN International Atomic Energy Agency, Amr Moussa, the former head of the Arab League, and Abdelmoneim Aboul Fotouh, a moderate Islamist who challenged Mr Morsi for the presidency, announced the formation of a 'National Salvation Front' to fight the decision.
At one stage, Egypt's judges seemed ready to force a confrontation by declaring a national strike against the president's declaration.
The highest constitutional court also threatened to defy the president by pressing ahead with a ruling on the constitutional committee next month.
Opponents fear there will be clashes today when the Muslim Brotherhood organises a counter-rally to support the president against the Tahrir Square protesters.
Some even fear that the military may use the confrontation as an excuse to step back in.
But Adel Soleiman, of Cairo's International Centre for Future and Strategic Studies and a retired general, said he believed Mr Morsi would get his way.
"He is the elected president," he said. "The political role of the military is over." (© Daily Telegraph, London)