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Deadly violence to test Mursi's security resolve

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Clashes flare-up in Cairo

Protesters and security forces battle in Tahrir Square, on the fourth day of clashes since revolution anniversary protests began.

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CAIRO: The Egyptian President, Mohammed Mursi, has declared a state of emergency in three provinces hit by rioting that has left dozens dead, warning he was ready to take further steps to confront threats to Egypt's security.

Emergency measures would come into effect in the provinces of Port Said, Suez and Ismailia ''for 30 days starting at midnight'' (9am Monday Sydney time), Dr Mursi said in an address on state television on Sunday.

Curfews would be imposed on the same three provinces from 9pm until 6am, he said.

President Mohammed Mursi … ''I must stop bloodshed.''

President Mohammed Mursi … ''I must stop bloodshed.'' Photo: Reuters

''I have said I am against any emergency measures but I have said that if I must stop bloodshed and protect the people, then I will act,'' Dr Mursi said.

He warned he was ready to take further measures if the deadly violence that has swept Egypt since Friday does not end. ''If I must, I will do much more for the sake of Egypt. This is my duty and I will not hesitate,'' he warned.

He held out an olive branch to opposition and political leaders across Egypt, inviting them for talks, saying ''there is no alternative to dialogue''.

He added in his brief address: ''There is no going back on freedom and democracy … the rule of law and social justice that the revolution has paved.''

The opposition has threatened to boycott parliamentary elections if Dr Mursi does not find a ''comprehensive solution'' to the unrest.

The National Salvation Front, the main coalition of parties and movements opposing the ruling Islamists, said it would ''not participate'' in the polls unless a ''national salvation'' government was formed.

Dr Mursi's comments came after rioting sparked by death sentences passed on fans of the al-Masry football club rocked Egypt's Port Said for a second straight day on Sunday, leaving another six people dead and more than 460 injured, according to medical workers.

Crowds attempted to storm three police stations in the canal city and others torched a social club belonging to the armed forces, looting items inside, security officials said.

The latest casualties, among the six a teenager shot in the chest, add to the toll of 31 people, including two anti-riot police, killed in the city on Saturday.

Unrest also erupted on Sunday in Suez, where protesters surrounded a police station, lobbed firebombs at security forces and blocked the road leading to the capital.

In Cairo, clashes broke out between police and protesters who accuse Dr Mursi of betraying the goals of the revolution that ousted the dictator Hosni Mubarak two years ago, highlighting deep political divisions in the country.

In Cairo's Tahrir Square, Dr Mursi's televised announcement was met with chants of ''leave, leave'', echoing the same calls that helped drive out Mubarak.

The rioting in Port Said began on Saturday after a Cairo court handed down death sentences to 21 al-Masry supporters for their role in a politically-charged riot at a football match last year that left 74 people dead.

Dr Mursi insisted the verdicts that triggered the violence ''must be respected by all of us''.

He said he had instructed the interior ministry to ''use all decisive force against those who attack the security of the people, government buildings, those who use weapons, block roads [and] those who throw stones on innocents''.

Agence France-Presse, Bloomberg

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