CAIRO // The Egyptian president, Mohammed Morsi, yesterday tried to calm tensions that have gripped the country since his seizure of new powers.
Mr Morsi met with members of Egypt's Supreme Judicial Council, which on Sunday condemned the declaration as an "unprecedented assault on the judiciary and it rulings". Mr Morsi's advisers expressed confidence that yesterday's talks would resolve the impasse.
A presidential spokesman, Yasser Ali, said that Mr Morsi assured the judges that the decrees did not in any way "infringe" on the judiciary.
Mr Morsi's justice minister, Ahmed Mekki, said a resolution to the crisis was imminent.
Mr Mekki said that Mr Morsi's declaration could be amended to stipulate that "the irrevocable decisions of the president apply only to issues related to his sovereign powers and not administrative decisions". Mr Morsi's declaration on Thursday gave him nearly absolute political power until a new constitution is approved.
Mr Morsi defended the unilateral act as essential to realising a full democratic transition that they claim has been stalled by a politicised judiciary dominated by appointees during Hosni Mubarak's time as president.
The judiciary responded vigorously at the weekend.
In addition to the Supreme Judicial Council's rebuke, Egypt's Judges Club appealed for a general strike by judges and prosecutors, although the judicial council rejected those calls, and they do not appear to have been widely followed.
Mr Morsi's declaration has also sparked a series of violent outbreaks throughout the country. Anti-Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators torched several of the organisation's offices on Friday. On Sunday evening, a 15-year-old Brotherhood member, Islam Masoud, was killed after protesters attempted to storm the group's headquarters in the Nile Delta city of Damanhur.
The instability rocked the stock exchange, which plunged more than 9 per cent on Sunday. Stocks rebounded slightly in yesterday's trading.
On Sunday, Mr Morsi emphasised the "temporary nature of the said measure".
* With additional reporting by Reuters and the Associated Press