The Egyptian president has asked the army to help secure a constitutional referendum he is determined to push through despite the risk of more deadly violence between his supporters and opponents, Reuters reported.
Seven people were killed and hundreds wounded last week in clashes between the Muslim Brotherhood and their critics besieging Mohamed Morsi's graffiti-daubed presidential palace. Both sides plan mass demonstrations on Tuesday.
The elite Republican Guard has yet to use force to keep protesters away from the palace, which it ringed with tanks, barbed wire and concrete barricades after last week's violence.
Morsi has rescinded a November 22 decree giving him wide powers but is going ahead with a referendum on Saturday on a constitution seen by his supporters as a triumph for democracy.
A decree issued by Morsi late on Sunday gives the armed forces the power to arrest civilians and refer them to prosecutors until the announcement of the results of the referendum, which the protesters want cancelled.
An Egyptian military source stressed that the measure introduced by a civilian government would have a short shelf-life.
“The latest law giving the armed forces the right to arrest anyone involved in illegal actions such as burning buildings or damaging public sites is to ensure security during the referendum only,” the military source said.
Presidential spokesman Yasser Ali said the committee overseeing the vote had requested the army's assistance.
“The armed forces will work within a legal framework to secure the referendum and will return (to barracks) as soon as the referendum is over,” Ali said.
Protests and violence have racked Egypt since Morsi decreed himself extraordinary powers he said were needed to speed up a troubled transition since Mubarak's fall 22 months ago.
The Muslim Brotherhood has voiced anger at the Interior Ministry's failure to prevent protesters setting fire to its headquarters in Cairo and 28 of its offices elsewhere.
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