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New protests in Tahrir Square as Egypt's Morsi grants himself broad powers

The Egyptian president's move brought opponents into the streets all across the country amidst fears that he may be seizing power through emergency orders similar to those of the previous regime.

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"We are in a state of revolution. He is crazy of he thinks he can go back to one-man rule," one protester, Sara Khalili, said of Morsi.

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"If the Brotherhood's slogan is 'Islam is the solution' ours is 'submission is not the solution'," said Khalili, a mass communications professor at the American University in Cairo. "God does not call for submission to another man's will."

Frustration had been growing for months with Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president, who came to office in June. Critics say the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails, has been moving to monopolize power and that he has done little to tackle mounting economic problems and continuing insecurity, much less carry out deeper reforms.

Morsi's supporters, in turn, say he has faced constant push-back from Mubarak loyalists and from the courts, where loyalists have a strong presence. The courts have been considering a string of lawsuits demanding the dissolution of the Islamist-dominated assembly writing the next constitution. The courts already dissolved a previous version of the assembly and the Brotherhood-led lower house of parliament.

Morsi made his move Thursday, at a time when he was bolstered by U.S. and international praise over his mediating of a cease-fire ending a week of battles between Israel and Hamas in Gaza. Only a day earlier, Morsi had met with U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton just before the truce was announced.

Mustafa Kamel el-Sayyed, a Cairo University political science professor, said Morsi may be confident that the U.S. won't pressure him on his domestic moves. "The U.S. administration is happy to work with an Islamist government (that acts) in accordance with U.S. interests in the region, one of which is definitely the maintaining of the peace treaty between Egypt and Israel" and protecting Israel's security.

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Friday that Morsi's declarations "raise concern for many Egyptians and for the international community."

The U.S. calls for Egyptians to "resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue," she said.

On Thursday, Morsi unilaterally issued amendments to the interim constitution that made all his decisions immune to judicial review or court orders. He gave similar protection to the constitutional panel and the upper house of parliament, which is dominated by the Brotherhood and also faced possible disbanding by the courts.

Morsi, who holds legislative as well as executive powers, also declared his power to take any steps necessary to prevent "threats to the revolution," public safety or the workings of state institutions. Rights activists warned that the vague — and unexplained — wording could give him even greater power than those Mubarak held under emergency laws throughout his rule.

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