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Upping the Ante: Morsi Readies for Martial Law

Military urges dialogue, warns of 'dark tunnel with disastrous results'

- Lauren McCauley, staff writer

Egypt's state-run newspaper, Al Ahram, is reporting that President Mohamed Morsi "has approved legislation reimposing martial law by calling on the armed forces to keep order."

In the face of ongoing protests, Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi approves legislation for martial law (Photo: AFP) “President Morsi will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions until the constitution is approved and legislative elections are finished,” Al Ahram reported Saturday, suggesting that martial law could last until at least February, when the Parliamentary elections are expected to be held.

According to the paper, Morsi has not yet issued the order.

However, even the threat of martial law suggests an escalation in the political battle between Egypt’s new Islamist leaders and their secular opponents over an Islamist-backed draft constitution, the New York Times said.

Al Ahram reported that the defense minister would determine the scope of the military’s role. Military officers would be authorized to act as police and “to use force to the extent necessary to perform their duty,” the newspaper said.

The Times report continues:

A need to rely on the military to secure a referendum to approve the new charter could undermine Mr. Morsi’s efforts to present the documents as an expression of national consensus that might resolve the crisis.

Even the possibility presents an extraordinary role reversal: an elected president who spent decades opposing Mr. Mubarak’s use of martial law to detain Islamists — a former leader of the Muslim Brotherhood who himself spent months in jail under the “emergency law” — is poised to resort to similar tactics to control unrest and violence from secular groups.

Shortly after announcement was made, a military spokesperson issued a warning to the people of Egypt: "The path of dialogue is the best and only way to reach agreement and achieve the interests of the nation and its citizens," it said, adding, "The opposite of that will take us into a dark tunnel with disastrous results."

The statement was made as a 'national dialogue' convened at the presidential palace Saturday to discuss a possible end to the violent protests that have rocked the country since November 22.

Though noticably absent from the discussions were "any key members of the opposition," wrote Al Jazeera's Sherine Tadros, reporting from Cairo.

The country's main political opposition groups, including leading anti-Morsi figure Mohamed ElBaradei, have boycotted the talks in protest of Morsi's refusal to "postpone the December 15 referendum on a controversial draft constitution and rescind decrees granting him immunity from any oversight," Al Jazeera reports.

A coalition of Egypt's main Islamist parties on Saturday again rejected opposition demands to delay the referendum on the controversial constitution.

Despite the warnings and threat of military intervention, demonstrators continue their occupation of Tahrir Square.

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