Mursi annuls controversial decree; to go ahead with referendum

Cairo: In a dramatic U-turn, Egypt's Islamist President Muhammed Mursi on Sunday annulled a controversial decree that had granted him Pharaoh-like powers, even as he rejected opposition demands to delay next week's referendum on a new constitution.

In a major sign of compromise, Mursi revoked the controversial decree that had granted him sweeping powers, but decided that the referendum on the draft constitution would go ahead as planned on December 15.

President Mursi's dramatic U-turn came after a "national dialogue" held between political leaders which continued after late midnight.

The constitutional referendum will be held on its previously specified date of December 15 and the constitutional declaration issued by President Mursi on November 22 has been largely cancelled, Mohamed Selim al-Awa, an Islamist politician and adviser to Mursi, announced on Sunday.

The new constitutional declaration however will be immune from judicial appeal.

According to the new declaration, if a majority of Egyptians vote against the draft constitution, then a new Constituent Assembly will be elected in three months, and will have six months to draft a new one.

The cancellation of the decree, which put Mursi's decisions above judicial oversight, was not retroactive, meaning any decisions he made since its announcement still stand.

The move comes after a week of protests against the referendum and constitutional declaration that lead to violent clashes between his supporters and opponents that killed at least seven people and injured nearly 700 others.

The new declaration, Awa said, would not remove judicial oversight of Mursi's decisions, but the President is still tasked with protecting the revolution and its causes, and his appointment of new Prosecutor General Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah will stand.

The present political turmoil began after President Mursi granted himself absolute powers through the November 22 decree that had put his decisions beyond judicial review, a move which gained him titles like "dictator" and "Pharaoh".