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Tensions Continue Over Egypt's Constitution Fight



This is WEEKEND EDITION from NPR News. I'm Scott Simon.

Tens of thousands of people were again protesting at the gates of the Presidential Palace in Cairo overnight. And yesterday, protesters broke through the barbed-wire barricades to climb on tanks that were stationed to keep them at bay.

Protesters are demanding that President Mohammed Morsi reverse a decree that awarded himself sweeping powers and that he cancel a referendum scheduled for next week on a proposed constitution. Today, opposition members were invited to the palace to discuss the tense situation with President Morsi and members of his party, the Muslim Brotherhood.

Earlier, we spoke with Ashraf Khalil in Cairo. He's a contributor to Time magazine and the author of "Liberation Square."

ASHRAF KHALIL: To a large extent, those who are protesting against President Morsi oppose the entire way that this thing has been handled, many of whom including senior leaders of the opposition like Mohamed ElBaradei say the country went wrong 18 months ago right after the revolution when the Brotherhood helped pass a national referendum that ended up in this situation where we don't have a constitution. It's in dispute.

We have elected bodies defending their own interests, but there's a lot of people who object to the entire way this thing has been handled and object to what's in the constitution. And object to this feeling that is being forced down people's throats and then deliberately not giving time for a reasoned debate and consensus.

SIMON: And how organized is the opposition at this point?

KHALIL: By their standards, quite well organized. You know, there have been some ego contact, which is naturally something like this. But really Morsi's constitutional decree has forced a level of unity among the opposition that we have not seen, I guess, ever.

SIMON: Ashraf Khalil, who is contributor to Time magazine and author of "Liberation Square" joining us from Cairo. Thanks for being with us.

KHALIL: No problem, my pleasure. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.