In an interview with Egyptian state television on Thursday night, President Mohamed Morsi asserted that last week's controversial constitutional declaration was meant to achieve the "needs and objectives" of Egypt's current transitional stage.
"The draft constitution is almost complete; we will have a draft charter that the presidency will put before a popular referendum," he said. "If the people say 'yes,' my constitutional declaration will no longer apply."
Morsi's controversial declaration, issued one week ago, was broadly condemned by Egypt's political opposition, leading members of which accused the president of granting himself sweeping powers and evading judicial oversight.
In his Thursday interview, Morsi said such opposition was "necessary," but he went on to voice disappointment to see "remnants of the former regime" amid protesters' ranks. "Anyone has the right to express their opinion, but without attacking public or private property or throwing stones," he said.
"We must express our opinions without obstructing production," he urged. "Produce first, and then express yourself later."
"I respect the protesters; I would like to be in their midst so as to better listen to them," he said. But he went on to warn that he would not allow anyone to "extend Egypt's current transitional stage [i.e., in the absence of a functioning parliament and new constitution] any longer to achieve their aims."
Morsi went on to defend last week's constitutional declaration, saying that the revolution demanded "retribution for the martyrs." The declaration, he stressed, would allow those implicated in killing protesters to face proper investigations and retrials.
Responding to charges by opposition figures that he sought dictatorial powers, Morsi said, "There should be no talk of dictatorship; I, too, like many Egyptians, have suffered from the lack of freedom," going on to stress the declaration's temporary nature.
Asked about the status of Egypt's sizable Christian community in the current draft constitution, Morsi denied that Coptic Christians were "afraid" following the recent withdrawal of church representatives from Egypt's Constituent Assembly.
"Christians love Egypt," he said, stressing that there had been no mass departure of Christians following his assumption of the presidency this summer.