UK & World News
Egypt Protests: Army Calls For Unity Talks
The Egyptian army has reportedly called talks between President Mohamed Morsi and the opposition to end violent protests against a draft constitution.
The appeal came as rival protesters gathered in the capital Cairo to voice their anger at the planned constitution, which will be put to a referendum on Saturday, or to back Mr Morsi.
Thousands of people took to the streets in Tahrir Square, the hub of the protests that ended the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak and more recently the scene of a sit-in protesting sweeping new powers asssumed by Mr Morsi.
Earlier, masked gunmen opened fire on opposition protesters in the square, peppering them with birdshot and injuring nine of them. It was unclear who was responsible.
According to witnesses, the gunmen also threw petrol bombs which started a small fire.
General Abdel Fattah al-Sissi, the country's armed forces chief and defence minister, said on the military's official Facebook page: "The chief of the military and defence minister calls for a meeting for the sake of Egypt that will bring together national partners in the presence of the president of the republic."
An invitation was extended to the government, judges and "all political forces" to attend the talks at a military sports complex in northeast Cairo.
A Muslim Brotherhood official said that the country's largest political bloc, which proposed Mr Morsi, would attend the meeting.
However, Hamdeen Sabahy of the opposition National Salvation Front said his group had not yet been invited but would decide on Wednesday morning whether to attend.
"The Egyptian army is a great army and highly valued among all Egyptians. We respect it and its efforts but if this invitation does not have a clear agenda then we are afraid it will be a public relations exercise and we don't see any value in attending," he said.
The president has ordered the army to co-operate with police to tackle the protesters and protect presidential institutions until after the vote on Saturday.
Tanks and armed troops have surrounded the presidential palace in Cairo since Thursday after running street battles between Mr Morsi's supporters and his opponents, which left seven dead and 700 injured.
Despite their presence they have not confronted the thousands of protesters who have gathered there.
The latest outbreak of violence in Egypt has sparked concern among Western leaders. They have criticised Mr Morsi's attempt to adopt sweeping powers, which triggered the protests more than two weeks ago.
He reversed the decision at the weekend but his determination to push through a new and hastily drawn-up constitution has sparked fresh unrest.
If the new charter is rejected in Saturday's vote, Mr Morsi has promised to have a new one produced by 100 officials chosen directly by the public rather than appointed by the Islamist-dominated parliament.
However, analysts say it is unlikely that the new constitution will not win support in a referendum.