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60 wounded in clashes between Egypt president's supporters and opposition protesters

On the doorstep of Egypt's presidential palace, angry protesters accuse Mohamed Morsi of stealing power and imposing a constitution they consider illegal. NBC's Richard Engel reports.

Updated at 4:25 p.m. ET -- Opposition protesters fought presidential supporters outside the Egyptian presidential palace on Wednesday, while inside the building the president's deputy proposed a way to end a crisis over a draft constitution that has split the most populous Arab nation.

Stones and petrol bombs flew between opposition protesters and supporters of President Mohammed Morsi, and the Interior Ministry said 32 people had been arrested and three police vehicles destroyed.

The Egyptian ministry of health told NBC News 60 people have been wounded in the clashes, but said there have been no fatalities.


The president's backers tore down tents erected by opponents of Morsi who began a sit-in protest on Tuesday, Reuters reported.

The demonstrators are angry over the president's expanded powers and his decision to rush through a new constitution they say does not represent the whole nation.

Tweets from activists on the scene said some anti-Morsi protesters were overwhelmed by the president's backers, who beat some of the protesters with clubs. Rocks were thrown, and some protesters were left bleeding.

Riot police were deployed between the two sides to try to stop confrontations that flared after dark despite an attempt by Vice President Mahmoud Mekky to ease the crisis.

Mekky said amendments to disputed articles in the draft constitution could be agreed on with the opposition. A written agreement could then be submitted to the next parliament, to be elected after a referendum on the constitution on Dec. 15.

"There must be consensus," he told a news conference, saying opposition demands had to be respected to reach a solution.

Violence breaks out in Cairo, Egypt, outside Mohammed Morsi's presidential palace. NBC's Jim Maceda has more on the clashes and a possible constitutional compromise by the Egyptian government.

Ready for dialogue
In a news conference Wednesday, opposition coordinator Mohamed ElBaradei said: "We hold President Morsi and his government completely responsible for the violence happening in Egypt today."

"We are ready for dialogue if the constitutional decree is canceled ... and the referendum on this constitution is postponed," he said of the document written by an Islamist-led assembly that the opposition says ignores its concerns.

Opposition leaders have previously urged Morsi to retract the Nov. 22 decree, defer the referendum and agree to revise the constitution, but have not echoed calls from street protesters for his overthrow and the "downfall of the regime."

Morsi has said his decree was needed to prevent courts still full of judges appointed by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak from derailing a constitution vital for Egypt's political transition.

Protests spread to other cities, and offices of the Muslim Brotherhood's political party in Ismailia and Suez were torched.

Morsi flees Egypt's presidential palace as 'last warning' protesters battle cops

 

Khaled Elfiqi / EPA

Egyptian supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood attack an Egyptian opposition protester in front of the presidential palace one day after a protest against President Mohammed Morsi, in Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 5.

On Wednesday, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said Egypt's unrest showed the urgent need for dialogue between Morsi's government and opposition figures.

Supporters of Islamist president push Egypt to tipping point

Speaking at NATO, Clinton said the U.S. wanted to see a constitution emerge that protects the rights of all Egyptians — men and women, and Christian and Muslim.

But asked to specifically address any shortcoming in the Islamist-supported draft constitution, Clinton didn't name any.

Rights groups as well as secular opponents of Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood have criticized the draft. They say it rolls back the rights of women, religious minorities and others.

Liberals, Christians left out as Islamists back Egypt's draft constitution

Clinton said Wednesday the dialogue needed to be two-way — not the government imposing its view.

She also called for Egypt's courts to be allowed to function.

On Tuesday, Egyptian police battled thousands of protesters outside the palace, prompting Morsi to leave the building, presidency sources said.

The Associated Press reported that some people broke through barbed wire around the building and hurled chairs and rocks at retreating police on Tuesday night.

The crowds had gathered in what organizers had dubbed "last warning" protests against Morsi, who infuriated opponents with a November 22 decree that expanded his powers. "The people want the downfall of the regime," the demonstrators chanted.

NBC's Jim Maceda and Charlene Gubash, Reuters and The Associated Press contributed to this report.

Hassan Ammar / AP

Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's supporters, background, clash with opponents, foreground, outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, on Dec. 5.

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