World Bulletin / News Desk
Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi declared a month-long state of emergency in three cities on the Suez Canal, where dozens of people have been killed in protests that have swept the nation.
Riots were sparked on Saturday when a court sentenced to death several people from the city in a case of deadly soccer violence last year. Mourners at Sunday's funerals in the port, where guns are common, turned their rage on Mursi.
Hundreds of demonstrators in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia turned out against the decision within moments of Mursi's announcement late on Sunday that came after the death toll from protests and violence that erupted last week hit 49 people.
Most deaths were in Port Said, where 40 people were killed in just two days.
The violence in Egyptian cities has now extended to a fifth day. Police again fired volleys of teargas at dozens of youths hurling stones early on Sunday near Cairo's Tahrir Square, where opponents have camped for weeks to protest against Mursi.
"We want to bring down the regime and end the state that is run by the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ibrahim Eissa, a 26-year-old cook, protecting his face from teargas wafting towards him from police lines near Tahrir, the cauldron of the 2011 revolt.
"The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone. We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the remit of the law," Mursi said, offering condolences to families of victims in the canal zone cities.
Appealing to his opponents, the president called for a national dialogue on Monday at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), inviting a range of Islamist allies as well as liberal, leftist and other opposition groups and individuals to discuss the crisis.
The main opposition National Salvation Front coalition said it would meet on Monday to discuss the offer. But some opponents have already suggested they do not expect much from the gathering, raising the prospect of poor attendance.
"Unless the president takes responsibility for the bloody events and pledges to form a government of national salvation and a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time," Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent politician who founded the Constitution Party, wrote on Twitter.
Hamdeen Sabahy, a firebrand leftist politician and presidential candidate who is another leading member of the Front, said he would not attend Monday's meeting "unless the bloodshed stops and the people's demands are met."
Even in Tahrir Square, some protesters said the violence and the death toll in Port Said and other cities along the strategic international waterway meant there was little choice but to impose emergency law, though they, too, said the violence was Mursi's fault.
"They needed the state of emergency there because there is so much anger," said Mohamed Ahmed, 27, a protester walking briskly from a cloud of teargas spreading into Tahrir Square.
But activists in the three cities affected have pledged to defy the curfew that will start at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) each evening and will last until 6 a.m. (0400 GMT).
Some opposition groups have also called for more protests on Monday, which marks the second anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in the revolution that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011, and brought an end to Mubarak's iron rule 18 days later.Last Mod: 28 Ocak 2013, 11:24