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Morsi's Assumption of Sweeping Powers in Egypt Concerns US

Mohammed Morsi sitting in Ittihadiya Palace, the official residence of the president, in Heliopolis, a suburb of Cairo (photo from 10/07/12).
The United States is concerned about Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi taking on broader powers, saying it does not want to see too much authority resting in too few hands. The president's decree has sparked protests by opposition activists, who continued to camp out in Cairo's Tahrir Square for a fourth day Monday to demand that Morsi reverse his decision.

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr Monday to discuss President Morsi's assumption of broader powers.

State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland says Secretary Clinton underscored the importance Washington places on settling these disputes democratically.

"We want to see the constitutional process move forward in a way that does not overly concentrate power in one set of hands, that ensures that rule of law, checks and balances, protections of the rights of all groups in Egypt are upheld," she said.

Egyptian judges hope to persuade the president to limit the sweeping powers he granted himself last week. Morsi says placing his decisions above judicial review is temporary.

He met Monday with Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council to explain the move. Nuland says that is encouraging.

"The fact that the right people are talking to each other is a good step, but obviously we want to see this issue resolved in a way that meets the standards and principles that we have been supporting all the way through since the Egyptian revolution began," she said.

A protester throws stones as others run for cover during clashes with riot police at Tahrir Square in Cairo, November 26, 2012.
A protester throws stones as others run for cover during clashes with riot police at Tahrir Square in Cairo, November 26, 2012.
Rallies against the president's greater powers have reinvigorated a fractured opposition in Cairo, with some of his opponents accusing the new president of attempting to become "a new pharaoh."

Without a functioning legislature, Nuland says Egypt's post-revolutionary democracy is operating in a "very unclear political environment."

"It is a very murky, uncertain period in terms of the legal and constitutional underpinnings, which makes it all the more important that the process proceed on the basis of democratic dialogue and consultation," she said.

The State Department spokeswoman would not say whether President Morsi's decision might affect U.S. backing for International Monetary Fund assistance to Egypt's new government.

During her conversation with Foreign Minister Amr, Secretary Clinton also discussed the cease-fire between Israel and Hamas authorities in Gaza.​

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