CAIRO - Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi has declared a state of emergency in three cities on the Suez Canal, where dozens of people have been killed, drawing mixed reactions from Egyptians.
"They needed the state of emergency there because there is so much anger," said Mohamed Ahmed, 27, a protester in Cairo's Tahrir Square, told Reuters on Monday, January 28.
In a speech late Sunday, Morsi declared a month-long state of emergency in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia.
He also declared a curfew in the three cities, where dozens of people have been killed in deadly clashes in the past three days.
"The protection of the nation is the responsibility of everyone, Morsi said, offering condolences to families of victims in the canal zone cities.
We will confront any threat to its security with force and firmness within the remit of the law.
Morsi also called for a national dialogue on Monday at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT), inviting a range of Islamist allies as well as liberal, leftist and other opposition groups and individuals to discuss the crisis.
But Morsi's move to declare emergency has drawn fire in the three cities, where activists have pledged to defy the curfew that will start at 9 p.m. (1900 GMT) each evening and last until 6 a.m. (0400 GMT).
Some opposition groups have also called for more protests on Monday, which marks the second anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in the revolution that erupted on January 25, 2011, and brought an end to Hosni Mubarak's iron rule 18 days later.
"We want to bring down the regime and end the state that is run by the Muslim Brotherhood," said Ibrahim Eissa, a 26-year-old cook, protecting his face from teargas wafting towards him from police lines near Tahrir, the cauldron of the 2011 revolt.
Violence in Egypt's cities has extended to a fifth day on Monday.
Police fired volleys of teargas at dozens of youths hurling stones near the Tahrir Square, where opponents have camped for weeks to protest against Morsi.
Rights activists said Morsi's declaration of emergency was a backward step for Egypt, which was under emergency law for Mubarak's entire 30-year rule.
Mubarak's police used the sweeping arrest provisions to muzzle dissent and round up opponents, including members of the Brotherhood and even Morsi himself.
But supporters say the move is necessary to help end the bloody violence in the three cities.
But opposition figures criticized Morsi's measures to tackle the turbulent situation in Egypt.
"Of course we feel the president is missing the real problem on the ground, which is his own policies," Khaled Dawoud, spokesman of the opposition National Salvation Front, said.
"His call to implement emergency law was an expected move, given what is going on, namely thuggery and criminal actions."
Opposition figures also criticized Morsi's call to call for a national dialogue without setting a clear agenda.
"Unless the president takes responsibility for the bloody events and pledges to form a government of national salvation and a balanced committee to amend the constitution, any dialogue will be a waste of time," Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent politician who founded the Constitution Party, wrote on Twitter, according to Reuters.
Hamdeen Sabahy, a leftist politician and presidential candidate who is another leading member of the Front, said he would not attend Monday's meeting "unless the bloodshed stops and the people's demands are met".
Ahmed Said of the liberal Free Egyptians Party said Morsi's tone on Sunday night was more threatening than conciliatory.
"Egypt is in danger and completely split," he told Reuters.
Morsi's opponents accuse him of listening only to his Islamist friends and reneging on a pledge to be a president for all Egyptians.
Islamists say their rivals want to overthrow by undemocratic means Egypt's first freely elected leader.The Front has distanced itself from the latest flare-ups but said Morsi should have acted far sooner to impose extra security measures that would have ended the violence.