Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi may delay a controversial constitutional referendum, slated for 15 December, if the opposition accepts dialogue without preconditions, Justice Minister Ahmed Mekki said on Friday.
Anti-Morsi demonstrators, who switched their protest hub from the iconic Tahrir Square to the area surrounding the presidential palace in Cairo, are persistently demanding that Morsi call off the referendum.
The president's opponents say the draft constitution, which was written by an Islamist-dominated assembly, disregards the rights of women, workers and Christians.
Egyptian expats are due to cast their yes or no vote on Saturday.
“The president is ready to talk with political figures without any preconditions. He is open to the idea of postponing the referendum to reach consensus over the contentious articles,” Mekki was quoted as saying by Al-Ahram Arabic website.
“He is ready for that even if it means the constitution will return to the assembly. Saturday’s vote for Egyptian expats may also be suspended if opposition political forces accept dialogue without preconditions.”
“The president believes (the opposition's) demands cannot be fulfilled without dialogue,” Mekki, a one-time reform judge who played a key role in the anti-Mubarak movement before the January 25, added.
In a speech late on Thursday, Morsi called for a national dialogue in a bid to end a political impasse that saw his supporters and opponents engage in clashes in front of the presidential palace on Wednesday, leaving at least six dead and hundreds injured.
Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, a one-time Mubarak foreign minister, said the National Salvation Front, which was set up to oppose a controversial decree issued by Morsi last month, will convene to decide whether to accept the president’s initiative.
However, reform campaigner Mohamed ElBaradei, an influential member of the front, called on political figures to boycott the meeting with Morsi, scheduled for Saturday at 12:30pm.
Meanwhile, Khaled Ali, a labor rights lawyer who also ran for president in 2012, told El-Shorouk newspaper that "those who will negotiate with Morsi are traitors."