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In Egypt: Will dialogue resolve the conflict? (+video)

The standoff in Egypt between President Mohamed Mursi and the Supreme Constitutional Court over a ruling the court made last month is unlikely to end soon. The outcome of the conflict will undoubtedly have repercussions across the region.   

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Aside from rival statements issued by the Brotherhood and the army, there has been no public sign of a clash. Mursi and SCAF chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who ruled the country in the interim after Mubarak quit, have seemed relaxed together at public events before and since the president's decree.

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In an air force graduation ceremony shown on live television on Tuesday, display aircraft left a vapour trail shaped like a heart in the sky for the dignitaries, prompting a big smile from Chief of Staff Sami Enan and a hesitant smirk from Mursi, who was seated between Enan and Tantawi.

How the dust settles in Egypt will have repercussions across a region where Islamists, many inspired by the Brotherhood, have emerged as powerful actors in revolts that toppled autocrats in Tunisia and Libya, and a rebellion still being fought in Syria.

Generals sought to rein in the new president's powers in a last-minute election day decree. But short of staging a coup - a move seen by most analysts as unlikely and certain to unite Islamists and their secular rivals - Egypt's army has limited room to manoeuvre since handing executive office to Mursi.

The military is now reliant on favourable rulings from judges - known to have a strong anti-Islamist streak, but, like the rest of Egypt, also divided. Rulings in the Supreme Constitutional Court so far have played in their favour.

Generals can maintain influence by negotiating quietly with the Brotherhood behind the scenes. They met regularly during the transition, although Western diplomats say relations became increasingly tense, particularly when the Brotherhood made a U-turn on an earlier pledge not to seek the presidency.

Dialogue is clearly the tactic urged by the West and liberal politicians.


"The national conscience demands an immediate meeting between the president, representatives of the legislature and the military council to reach a political and legal solution to avoid the country exploding," reformist politician Mohamed ElBaradei wrote on Facebook as parliament met.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said: "We strongly urge dialogue and concerted effort on the part of all to try to deal with the problems that are understandable but have to be resolved in order to avoid any kind of difficulties that could derail the transition that is going on."

Western states, long wary of political Islam but now seeking to engage with the Brotherhood, have watched Egypt's turmoil closely, in particular the United States, concerned about the stability of the first Arab nation to make peace with Israel.

Clinton, whose country gives Egypt's military $1.3 billion in aid each year, meets Mursi when she visits Egypt on July 14.

On Monday, the army defended its dissolution of parliament, saying it had had to respect the court's first ruling. In an apparent swipe at the president, it said it was confident "all state institutions" would respect the constitution and the law.

Nevertheless, the army did not take any steps to prevent lawmakers from entering parliament.

More battles lie ahead, such as a debate over the writing of a new constitution. The army, in its decree last month, gave itself the right to form a new constitution-writing body if the one picked by parliament hits an obstacle. An earlier constituent assembly was dissolved by a court.

Dozens of legal cases are now before a range of courts over issues including Mursi's decree, the validity of the constitutional assembly and the election of the upper house.

The Brotherhood says it is seeking a way to comply with the supreme court's ruling without dissolving the legislature.

Parliament voted to send a list of members to a court of appeal to determine whether or not they should continue to sit in the chamber, setting the stage for a new legal battle.

(Reporting by Dina Zayed, Omar Fahmy and Marwa Awad; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Peter Graff and Alastair Macdonald)

IN PICTURES – Turmoil in Egypt 

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