'Morsi tasks officials with modifying decree'

AFP reports Egyptian president is preparing to amend controversial decree after meeting with elements of the opposition.

Morsi supporters outside Constitutional Court in Egypt 370 R (photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)
Morsi supporters outside Constitutional Court in Egypt 370 R
(photo credit: Amr Dalsh / Reuters)
Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi is preparing to modify the controversial decree awarding himself sweeping powers, puting him above the law, AFP quoted Prime Minister Hisham Kandil as saying on Saturday.
AFP quoted Kandil as saying to Al-Mihwar television that Morsi has tasked six officials who met with members of the opposition to "modify the constitutional declaration."
According to the report, the new decree could be finalized later on Saturday or Sunday morning.
Kandil's comments follow the Egyptian army's effort to urge rival political forces to solve their disputes via dialogue and said the opposite would drag the country into a "dark tunnel", which it would not allow.
A statement issued by the military spokesman and read on state radio and television made no mention of President Mohamed Morsi, but said a solution to the political crisis should not contradict "legitimacy and the rules of democracy".
The spokesman said the military's duty was to protect national interests and secure vital state institutions.
"The armed forces ... realize their responsibility to preserve the higher interests of the country and to secure and protect vital targets, public institutions and the interests of innocent citizens," the statement said.
"The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus," it added. "The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."
The statement said Egyptians were capable of expressing their views peacefully "far from all displays of violence."
'Morsi may delay on constitution referendum'
Vice President Mahmud Mekki told AFP on Friday that Morsi "could accept to delay the referendum" on a draft constitution disputed by the opposition, .
Mekki said the president could delay the 15 December referendum if the opposition guaranteed not to challenge the move on those grounds later, AFP news agency reported.
Morsi was expected to press ahead on Saturday with talks on ways to end Egypt's worst crisis since he took office even though the country's main opposition leaders have vowed to stay away.
Cairo and other cities have been rocked by violent protests since November 22, when Morsi promulgated a decree awarding himself sweeping powers that put him above the law.
The upheaval in the most populous Arab nation, following the fall of Hosni Mubarak last year, worries the West, in particular the United States, which has given it billions of dollars in military and other aid since Egypt made peace with Israel in 1979.