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Egypt opposition take to the street, clash with president's supporters

Compared to months of turmoil Egypt's streets have seen, the demonstrations were quieter and the number of protesters smaller. Demonstraters accuse president Mursi of seeking to monopolize power.

By Edmund Blair and Marwa AwadReuters / August 24, 2012

Egyptian anti-Muslim Brotherhood protesters shout slogans during a rally to denounce the country's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood group in Cairo, Friday. Friday's protests were the first attempt by Morsi's opponents to stage a major demonstration against the new president. Arabic reads 'Morsi is illegal.'

Amr Nabil/AP

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CAIRO

Opponents of Egypt's president scuffled with his supporters on Friday during a demonstration that was billed as a test of Mohamed Mursi's popularity on the street but which managed to muster only modest numbers against his rule.

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After months of turmoil and bloodshed, Egypt's streets have calmed since Mursi's June election that ended 60 years of rule by military men, a relief to Egyptians and the West, wary of instability in a nation that has a peace treaty with Israel.

Rebuilding shattered economy

But Mursi now faces the giant task of rebuilding a shattered economy and delivering better living standards to a nation of 82 million where swathes still live in dire poverty.

Egyptians had been nervous that Friday's anti-Mursi protest, flagged for several weeks, could turn violent and security was tight around the presidential palace and some other sites.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, rival groups of youths hurled stones and bottles at each other, staging running battles in side streets. Some wielded sticks and charged opponents. Dozens also scuffled in Ismailiya, east of Cairo, a witness said.

But scenes were quieter in other areas of Cairo where Mursi's opponents gathered, and total numbers across the capital and elsewhere were relatively modest, reaching 2,000 or so rather than the seas of people who turned to unseat Mubarak or gathered in other demonstrations since then.

Liberal groups stayed away

Several liberal groups usually critical of Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood stayed away, including the April 6 youth movement that galvanised protests to oust Hosni Mubarak last year. Some said Mursi could not be judged just two months into office.

Activists behind the protest accuse Mursi of seeking to monopolise power after he wrested back prerogatives in August that the military council, which had ruled Egypt for a year and a half after Mubarak's fall, had sought to retain for itself.

"Wake up Egyptian people. Don't fall for the Brotherhood," said Mahmoud, in his 50s, addressing about 200 people in Tahrir Square. "Egypt is for all Egyptians, not only one group."

Many now want to give Mursi time to deliver and want to judge him at the ballot box, not on the street.

"Respectable democratic countries elect a leader and then give him time to prove himself," said Sabr Salah, 47, despite not being a Mursi backer. "We must give Mursi a chance because he won the election. We can vote him out again next time."

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