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Wednesday, December 19, 2012
Excerpts: Thousands protest Egypt Constitution referendum. Abbas to UN: help Syrian Refugees enter Palestinian territories December 19, 2012

Excerpts: Thousands protest Egypt Constitution referendum. Abbas to UN: help
Syrian Refugees enter Palestinian territories December 19, 2012

+++SOURCE:My National via Egypt Daily News 19 Dec.’12:”Thousands march on
Morsi's palace in referendum protest” by Bradley Hope

SUBJECT: Thousands protest Egypt Constitution referendum

QUOTE:”Thousaands…opposed to Egypt’s draft constitution marched last night
on the presidential palace and Tahrir Square”

FULL TEXT:CAIRO // Thousands of protesters opposed to Egypt's draft
constitution marched last night on the presidential palace and Tahrir

Marchers alleging voting irregularities and breaches of electoral law in the
first round of voting in a referendum chanted "down with Brotherhood rule"
and "your constitution is void".

It was the first major protest since a preliminary vote count showed 56.5
per cent approved the constitution, increasing the likelihood that will be
enacted after the second round on Saturday[22 Dec.].

But the National Salvation Front opposition umbrella group hoped the rally
would pressure Mohammed Morsi, the president, into concessions and
amendments to the constitution, or discredit it altogether.

"The pressure they are exerting is showing Egyptians and the outside the
world that thousands, maybe tens or hundreds of thousands, are against Mr
Morsi and the constitution," said Mazen Hassan, a professor of political
science at Cairo University.

"Even if the yes vote is winning by a small margin, they have managed to
weaken the support for the president."

The NSF said this week that it had observed hundreds of electoral offences
so far and the ministry of justice said yesterday it was assigning several
judges to probe allegations of irregularities.

"This is the first time in the history of Egypt that judges are assigned to
investigate vote violations," a ministry spokesman said.

The NSF is opposed to the constitution because it says the document does not
go far enough in enshrining the rights of Egyptians and was the product of
an Islamist dominated assembly that rushed through an approval even after
more than 20 of its 100 members walked out in protest.

"Down with the constitution of the Brotherhood," the NSF said yesterday,
rallying its supporters back on to the streets. "Down with the constitution
of tyranny."

The Muslim Brotherhood, which counts Mr Morsi as one of its former leaders,
has denied the NSF's claims. It says the constitution is the best in Egypt's
history and that the voting has been conducted cleanly and fairly.

The early results proved that the Egyptian people "did not fall in the grip
of fear or hopelessness, despite the storms violently stirred by dubious
dark forces in the past months", Essam El Erian, vice chairman of the
Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said on Sunday.

The renewed protests yesterday showed that Egypt's nearly four-week old
political crisis continues despite some efforts from the presidency to
concede to the opposition. After huge street protests and a national
dialogue session that failed to draw in opposition leaders, Mr Morsi
replaced a controversial declaration that gave him powers above the
judiciary with a milder version.

The NSF has refused to take part in any negotiations with the president, and
says his offers are hollow because he refused to delay the referendum until
a consensus could be reached.

Even if the constitution is passed after Saturday's round of voting, the
president is faced with a polarised nation. His supporters had forecast a
much wider approval margin for the constitution, but the preliminary results
showed a narrow approval.

If liberal and secular groups perform well in parliamentary elections in the
next few months, the Muslim Brotherhood's influence could be checked after
two years of political dominance.

Another sign of his weakening government came on Monday night, when Mr
Morsi's newly appointed prosecutor general, Talaat Ibrahim Abdallah,
resigned under pressure from judges and lawyers who said his appointment was

The Brotherhood said yesterday that his resignation was a "crime".

Mr Abdallah had been under fire from the legal community and opposition
forces since he was appointed last month to replace Abdel Meguid Mahmoud, a
Mubarak-era appointee accused of mishandling corruption investigations into
members of the old government.

Mr Morsi unsuccessfully tried to remove Mr Mahmoud in October by offering
him a position as Egypt's envoy to the Vatican, but Mr Mahmoud loudly
refused. Facing a rift with the judiciary, Mr Morsi backed down only to
issue the controversial decree a month later that gave him powers beyond the
oversight of the judiciary. The same decree forced Mr Mahmoud out of the
prosecutor general's office and Mr Morsi appointed Mr Abdallah in his place.

Mr Abdallah's resignation has not yet been accepted by the Supreme Judicial
Council, which said it would review it on Sunday, the day after the final
round of voting on the constitution.


* Additional reporting from Reuters and the Associated Press

+++SOURCE: Jordan Times 19 Dec.’12:Abbas to UN: help Syria refugees enter
Palestinian territories”, Agence France Presse
SUBJECT: Abbas to UN:help Syria refugees enter Palestinian territories
FULL TEXT:RAMALLAH –– Palestinian president Mahmud Abbas on Wednesday [19
Dec.] urged the international community to help Palestinian refugees fleeing
fighting in camps in Syria to enter the West Bank and Gaza.

"Mahmud Abbas, president of the state of Palestine, requested Wednesday[19
Dec.] that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon and the international community
enable our people in Syria to enter Palestinian territory," a statement
carried on the official WAFA news agency said.

He said help was needed "because of the exposure of Palestinian camps to the
bloody conflict in Syria."

Abbas's call came after tens of thousands of Palestinians fled the Yarmouk
district of south Damascus, home to one of 12 camps in Syria which host
Palestinian refugees and their descendants.

Yarmouk was bombed for the first time on Sunday[16 Dec. resulting in the
deaths of at least eight civilians, and prompting an exodus from the camp
and surrounding area.

Abbas and Gaza's Hamas rulers condemned the attack, with the Palestinian
president calling for bombing of the camp to stop "immediately."

Hamas, which was once headquartered in Damascus but has gradually broken
with the regime of President Bashar Assad, called the attack a "crime."

According to the United Nations Relief and Works Agency (UNRWA), there are
486,000 Palestine refugees living in nine official and three unofficial
camps across Syria.

The Palestinians have tried to remain neutral in the deadly conflict between
Assad's regime and rebel forces, a position Abbas emphasised again on

Abbas "stressed the Palestinian position of non-interference in the internal
affairs of Arab countries," the statement on WAFA said.

Sue Lerner - Associate, IMRA

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