CAIRO, Nov 27: Egypt´s President Mohamed Morsi faced nationwide protests Tuesday after digging in his heels over a controversial decree granting him sweeping powers, in the most divisive crisis since he took power in June.
Brief clashes between police and protesting youths erupted early morning near Cairo´s Tahrir Square, where activists who have been camping out were hoisting banners from lamp posts and erecting more tents ahead of a mass rally.
"We will stay in Tahrir until Morsi cancels his declaration," protester Ahmed Fahmy, 34 told AFP.
The planned demonstrations come a day after Morsi met with the country´s top judges in a bid to defuse the crisis over the decree, that has sparked deadly clashes and prompted judges and journalists to call for strike.
Marches are planned in the afternoon from across Cairo into Tahrir -- the epicentre of protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak last year -- where the numbers are expected to swell after the end of the work day.
Demonstrations have also been called in several Egyptian provinces including Alexandria on the Mediterranean, in the Nile Delta and in central Egypt.
The protesters are angry at the decree that Morsi announced last Thursday allowing him to "issue any decision or law that is final and not subject to appeal", which effectively placed him beyond judicial oversight.
The decree put him on a collision course with the judiciary and consolidated the long-divided opposition which accuses him of taking on dictatorial powers.
"The Muslim Brotherhood stole the revolution" read one banner. Another said the president was "pushing the people to civil disobedience."
After a meeting on Monday with top judges aimed at defusing the dispute, Morsi stuck by his controversial decree.
There is "no change to the constitutional declaration," presidential spokesman Yasser Ali told reporters at the end of the meeting.
But he added that Morsi sought to clarify that any irrevocable decisions apply only to issues related "to his sovereign powers" and stressed the temporary nature of the decree.
In a statement, the head of the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) -- the political arm of the Muslim Brotherhood-- said the meeting between Morsi and the judges had been "fruitful."
But judges at the meeting said the crisis was not over.
"The meeting failed," Judge Abdel Rahman Bahlul, who attended the talks, told the independent daily Al-Masry Al-Youm.
"We cannot say this is the end of the crisis between the judiciary and the presidency," another judge who attended the talks, Judge Ahmed Abdel Rahman, told the paper.
A judicial source told AFP that even if immunity were limited to sovereign powers, "which appears to be a compromise, there are still concerns that the text itself remains unchanged."
Morsi´s decree has led to charges that he is taking on dictatorial powers.
Some courts have suspended work in protest, and journalists have decided in principle to strike.
On Monday, hundreds of mourners turned out for the burial of a member of the president´s party who was killed in violence outside its offices in the Nile Delta town of Damanhour a day earlier.
Angry demonstrators have also torched offices belonging to the Muslim Brotherhood´s Freedom and Justice Party (FJP).
And in Cairo, thousands marched at the funeral of Gaber Salah, a member of the April 6 movement who died last week from injuries suffered in clashes near Tahrir Square.
Around the capital streets were quiet on Tuesday, with several schools closed for the day despite an education ministry statement saying that schools and universities would run as normal.
A new clinic was set up in the middle of the square, which was closed to traffic, while dozens of ambulances were parked nearby, an AFP reporter said.