Rival rallies in Cairo

Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's President Morsi are staging rival rallies in the nation's capital, four days ahead a nationwide referendum on the new constitution.

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Egyptian judges vote against overseeing referendum

The head of Egypt's key association of judges says 90 percent of its members have voted not to oversee the nationwide referendum on the country's contentious draft constitution, due to take place this Saturday.

The move is unlikely to stop the referendum from taking place, but it casts doubt on the legitimacy of the constitutional drafting process. A faction of judges loyal to Morsi has said it would not boycott the vote

Meanwhile tens of thousands of Muslim Brotherhood supporters have gathered for a mass rally in support of the President in central Cairo.

Rival crowds hold mass rallies in Cairo

The Muslim Brotherhood are staging a demonstration in Cairo's Nasr City district Credit: APTN

Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's president are staging rival rallies in the nation's capital, four days ahead a nationwide referendum on the new constitution proposed by President Morsi.

The demonstrations got underway just hours after a crowd of masked men set upon opposition protesters staging a sit-in at Tahrir Square, attacking them and their tents with knives and sticks according to security officials.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood supporters Credit: APTN

A health ministry spokesman told Egyptian state news agency MENA at least 11 protesters were wounded in the pre-dawn attack.

Despite the ambush opponents of Morsi remain camped out in Tahrir Square this afternoon.

Opponents of President Morsi remain in smaller numbers in Tahrir Square. Credit: APTN

Vital IMF loan to Egypt delayed amid political crisis

A vital £2.98 billion International Monetary Fund loan to Egypt will be delayed until next month, as it battles political crisis.

The announcement came after President Mohamed Morsi yesterday backed down amid huge protests on planned tax increases, which were seen as key for the loan to go ahead.

Finance Minister Mumtaz al Said said the delay in the loan agreement was intended to allow time to explain a heavily criticised package of economic austerity measures to the Egyptian people. Speaking to Reuters, he said:

Of course the delay will have some economic impact, but we are discussing necessary measures (to address that) during the coming period. ... I am optimistic ... everything will be well, God willing.

Prime Minister Hisham Kandil said Egypt had requested that the loan be delayed by a month.

"The challenges are economic not political and must be dealt with aside from politics," he told a news conference.

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Egypt opposition: Morsi referendum plans are 'shocking'

A leading member of Egypt's main opposition coalition has said that President Mohamed Morsi's decision to press ahead with a referendum on a new constitution was "shocking" and would deepen a political crisis.

"It is making things a lot worse," Ahmed Said, member of the National Salvation Front coalition and head of the liberal Free Egyptians Party, told Reuters. "I cannot imagine that after all this they want to pass a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians."

He said the Front would meet later to make a formal response to Morsi's decision to scrap a decree that sparked deadly violence but stick to a referendum date of 15th Decemeber on a constitution that was drawn up by an Islamist-led drafting assembly.

Liberal groups reject president's announcement

Liberal and secular forces have quickly rejected the president's announcement because it presses ahead with a referendum on a constitution they say will turn Egypt into a religious state. NBC's Aymaan Mohyeldin reports from Cairo.

Critics have dismissed the referendum because they say that a draft does not have the broad consensus of Egyptians and fails to enshrine universal rights for women and protect religious freedoms.

But the president said that if the constitution is not approved next week he will order the public to directly elect a new constituent assembly to write yet another new constitution for the country.

Egyptian president's sweeping powers cancelled

Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi has cancelled a decree that gave him sweeping powers and sparked huge protests, but did not delay a referendum on a constitution as his opponents had demanded.

The announcement came from the spokesman for politicians and other figures who took part in a national dialogue on Saturday convened by the Islamist president. But the main opposition group stayed away, so the talks had little credibility among protesters.

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