Egypt unity talks out; opposition urges 'no' vote

After Egypt's military yanked back offers for unity talks just as the opposition agreed, an anti-Morsi alliance is calling on Egyptians to vote down the referendum.

CAIRO — An Egyptian opposition alliance urged supporters Wednesday to vote "no" in the referendum on a disputed constitution, but said it may still boycott if its conditions are not met.

Hamdeen Sabahi, one of the leaders of the opposition National Salvation Front, said at a news conference the alliance would urge its supporters to boycott if judges are not overseeing the vote and the state does not provide security at the polls.

"The Front decided to call upon the people to go to the polling stations and reject the draft by saying 'no,'" said Sabahi, reading from a prepared statement. "The people will rally at the polls and have a chance to topple the constitution by saying 'no.'"

The Front had been expected to call for civil disobedience, such as general strikes, to escalate the recent mass protests against President Mohammed Morsi, whose Islamist allies pushed through the draft constitution a few weeks ago. However, they did not call for more protests or any other escalation of resistance at the news conference.

In another twist, Egypt's military withdrew a call for talks with the opposition, one day after proposing it.

On the Facebook page of the Supreme Council of The Armed Forces, the military said that due to "reactions that were not up to expectations" Defense Minister Abdel-Fatah el-Sissi decided to postpone the meeting.

That announcement came at the same time the opposition said it was willing to attend the meeting.

El-Sissi's call was seen as a return of the powerful military to the political scene after Morsi's election ended nearly a year and a half of military rule following the February 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising. It was the second time this week the generals have addressed the crisis, signaling its return to the political fray.

The opposition has been boycotting a "national dialogue" hosted by the president, saying they don't trust Morsi after he failed to live up to promises during the election campaign to form a representative national coalition government and to win a broad consensus before putting the constitution to a vote.

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