Supporters, opponents of Egypt's president stage rival rallies ahead of referendum

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Associated Press

Posted on December 11, 2012 at 10:34 AM

CAIRO (AP) — Opponents and supporters of Egypt's president have gathered by the thousands for rival rallies in Cairo.

The rallies come four days ahead a nationwide referendum on a proposed constitution drafted largely by President Mohammed Morsi's Islamist allies.

Hours before the demonstrations began, masked assailants set upon opposition protesters who were staging a sit-in at Tahrir (tah-HREER') Square. Security officials say the attackers fired birdshot and swung knives and sticks at the protesters in pre-dawn raid, wounding at least 11 of them.

The draft constitution has deeply divided Egypt and triggered some of the worst street violence since Morsi took office in June. Liberal Egyptians, leftists and Christians claim the charter restricts freedoms and gives Islamists too much influence over the running of the country.

Islamist protesters have been denouncing the opposition as "counter-revolutionaries." The president's backers rallied near a mosque in the capital today, where a speaker told the crowd "the constitution means stability" and urged them to "shake the earth" with chants of Morsi's name.

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171-c-15-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)-"could be more"-AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie in Cairo reports two huge rival demonstrations are taking place in the Egyptian capital. (11 Dec 2012)

<<CUT *171 (12/11/12)>> 00:15 "could be more"

169-v-28-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)--Huge demonstrations are in progress in Cairo. More from AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie in Cairo. (11 Dec 2012)

<<CUT *169 (12/11/12)>> 00:28

170-c-13-(Mark Lavie (lah-VEE'), AP Middle East correspondent)-"could be violence"-AP Middle East Correspondent Mark Lavie in Cairo reports rival demonstrations are in progress in Cairo for and against the Islamist president. (11 Dec 2012)

<<CUT *170 (12/11/12)>> 00:13 "could be violence"

GRAPHICSBANK: Egyptian protester holds a cross,a Quran and and the Egyptian national flag, Cairo, Egypt, graphic element on gray (11 Dec 2012)

APPHOTO HAS109: A supporter of Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans as holds up a copy of Egypt's draft constitution during a demonstration, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Islamists led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group have called a demonstration to back the president's decision to hold a referendum on the new constitution on December 15. Opposition groups have rejected the constitution as undemocratic and want the vote canceled.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO HAS109 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO HAS108: A supporter of Muslim Brotherhood and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans as holds up a copy of Egypt's draft constitution during a demonstration, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Islamists led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group have called a demonstration to back the president's decision to hold a referendum on the new constitution on December 15. Opposition groups have rejected the constitution as undemocratic and want the vote canceled.(AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO HAS108 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO PJO104: An Egyptian protester holds the Quran, Islam's hold book, a Cross, and the Egyptian national flag during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president were flocking to key locations in the nation's capital ahead of rival mass rallies Tuesday, four days before a nationwide referendum on a contentious draft constitution. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO PJO104 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO PJO107: Egyptian riot police stand guard in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president were flocking to key locations in the nation's capital ahead of rival mass rallies Tuesday, four days before a nationwide referendum on a contentious draft constitution. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO PJO107 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO PJO114: Protesters dismantle a fence guarding the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president gathered at key locations in the nation's capital for rival mass rallies Tuesday, four days before a nationwide referendum on a contentious draft constitution. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO PJO114 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO PJO111: Protesters dismantle a barbed wired fence guarding the presidential palace ahead of demonstrations in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Thousands of opponents and supporters of Egypt's Islamist president gathered at key locations in the nation's capital for rival mass rallies Tuesday, four days before a nationwide referendum on a contentious draft constitution. (AP Photo/Petr David Josek) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO PJO111 (12/11/12)>>

APPHOTO HAS113: Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a demonstration in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 11, 2012. Islamists led by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood group have called a demonstration to back the president's decision to hold a referendum on the new constitution on December 15. Opposition groups have rejected the constitution as undemocratic and want the vote canceled. Arabic on the poster at center reads, "yes to the constitution." (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (11 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO HAS113 (12/11/12)>>

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