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Middle East

Egypt's Morsi admits mistakes and urges unity

President also promises to take necessary steps to fix economy, as Shura Council convenes with full legislative powers.
Last Modified: 26 Dec 2012 18:24

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has urged all political powers to take part in a national dialogue to resolve lingering tensions and promised to take necessary steps to heal the economy.

At his first address to the nation since the adoption of a new constitution, he said on Wednesday that he was considering possible cabinet changes and planned to introduce incentives to make Egypt a more attractive investment destination.

"The coming days will witness, God willing, the launch of new projects ... and a package of incentives for investors to support the Egyptian market and the economy," he said in a televised speech.

Morsi spoke after Egypt's upper house of parliament convened in its first session after the passing of the country's new constitution, the first action by a state institution in accordance with a document whose legitimacy is still contested by the opposition.

The Shura Council held a swearing-in session for 90 new members appointed by Morsi.

The charter, approved by 63.8 percent in a two-round referendum that ended on Saturday, gives the traditionally toothless upper house full legislative powers until elections for a new lower house is called within two months.

The upper house of parliament has taken over from Morsi, who had given himself the power to pass laws that led to days of violent protests.

Morsi signed a decree enforcing the charter late on Tuesday after the official announcement of the result of a referendum approving the basic law, Egypt's first constitution since the toppling of former President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow.

The president is expected to address the Shura Council on Saturday.

The Islamist-dominated council is expected to draft a law regulating upcoming parliamentary elections. Other items on the agenda may include laws on protests and the media.

'Special responsibility'

The opposition National Salvation Front (NSF) claimed the constitutional process was rushed and the referendum marked by irregularities.

The NSF's leader, Mohamed ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and former chief of the UN atomic energy agency, said the new charter should be treated as an "interim one" until another is written up on the basis of consensus.

The US, which provides billions of dollars a year in military aid to Egypt, has called on Egyptian politicians to bridge divisions and on all sides to reject violence.

"President Morsi, as the democratically elected leader of Egypt, has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognises the urgent need to bridge divisions," Patrick Ventrell, acting State Department spokesman, said in a statement.

EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton took note of both the majority backing the constitution and the low turnout.

Repeating a call for dialogue, she added: "I urge those concerned, in particular the president, to intensify efforts in this regard."

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