ElBaradei warns on Egyptian protests

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CAIRO -- Prominent Egyptian democracy advocate Mohammed ElBaradei warned yesterday of increasing turmoil that could potentially lead to the military stepping in unless the Islamist president rescinds his new, near absolute powers, as the country's long fragmented opposition sought to unite and rally new protests.

Egypt's liberal and secular forces are seeking to rally themselves in response to the decrees issued this week by President Mohammed Morsi. The president granted himself sweeping powers to "protect the revolution" and made himself immune to judicial oversight.

The judiciary, which was the main target of Morsi's edicts, pushed back yesterday. The country's highest body of judges, the Supreme Judicial Council, called his decrees an "unprecedented assault." Courts in Alexandria announced a work suspension until the decrees are lifted.

Outside the high-court building in Cairo, several hundred demonstrators rallied against Morsi, chanting, "Leave! Leave!" echoing the slogan used against former leader Hosni Mubarak in last year's uprising that ousted him. Police fired tear gas to disperse a crowd of men who were shooting flares outside the court.

Nobel laureate ElBaradei raised alarm over the impact of Morsi's rulings, saying Morsi had become "a new pharaoh."

"There is a good deal of anger, chaos, confusion. Violence is spreading to many places and state authority is starting to erode slowly," he said. "We hope that we can manage to do a smooth transition without plunging the country into a cycle of violence. But I don't see this happening without Mr. Morsi rescinding all of this."

The edicts issued Wednesday have galvanized anger brewing against Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood, from which he hails. Opposition groups have called for new nationwide rallies Tuesday, and the Muslim Brotherhood has called for rallies supporting Morsi the same day, setting the stage for new violence.

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