CAIRO (AFP) - Supporters of ousted Egyptian president Mohamed Mursi called for more rallies on Sunday to demand his reinstatement, amid last-ditch efforts for reconciliation ahead of a threatened crackdown on protests.
Mursi loyalists, led by the Muslim Brotherhood, have kept up two huge protest camps in Cairo to protest against his ouster by the military on July 3.
They say nothing short of his reinstatement will persuade them to disperse, despite several warnings by the interim leaders that the camps will be dismantled after the Eid al-Fitr holiday, which was to end on Sunday.
In a sign of the mounting tensions, a brief overnight power cut at the main sit-in outside the Rabaa al-Adawiya mosque struck panic among the pro-Mursi demonstrators, with some taking to social media to announce the assault had begun.
Protest organisers told AFP that as the electricity went out, they reinforced their barricades, added sandbags to the entrances of the protest site, and sent volunteers to find out what was happening, only to be told it was a false alarm.
The main coalition of Mursi supporters, the Anti-Coup Alliance, said 10 marches would take off from various parts of the capital on Sunday "to defend the electoral legitimacy" of Egypt's first freely elected president.
The call for fresh rallies comes as Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam's highest seat of learning, called for reconciliation talks in the latest of a string of attempts to find a peaceful solution to the political deadlock.
Al-Azhar's Grand Imam Ahmed al-Tayyeb is to begin contacts with political factions on Monday aimed at convincing them to sit down to talks later this week, state media reported.
"Al-Azhar has been studying all the proposals for reconciliation put forward by political and intellectual figures... to come up with a compromise formula for all Egyptians," Imam Tayyeb's adviser Mahmud Azab told the state-owned Al-Ahram newspaper.
But the Muslim Brotherhood is unlikely to accept such an invitation after Al-Azhar sided with the military over Mr Mursi's ouster.
Imam Tayyeb appeared with army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi when he announced on July 3 that Mr Mursi had been deposed and laid out a political roadmap for Egypt's transition which provides for new elections in 2014.
The interim leadership is now under immense pressure at home to crack down on the pro-Mursi protests, and immense pressure from the international community to avoid bloodshed.
Senior United States, European Union and Arab envoys have flown into Cairo in recent weeks to try to persuade the two sides to find a peaceful way out of the crisis.
But the government vowed on Wednesday to clear the Islamist protest camps, saying foreign mediation had failed.