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Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: People Divide in Protests

A wall at the Presidential Palace, constructed by the military and decorated by the protesters that it blocked

See also Bahrain Analysis: 5-Point Guide to Crown Prince's "Return to Dialogue"
Syria Live Coverage: Uncertainty Over the Mass Killing in Aqrab
Tuesday's Egypt (and Beyond) Live Coverage: Protests and the Opposition's Next Move

1759 GMT: Egypt. Blogger Alber Saber has been sentenced to three years in prison for blasphemy and contempt of religion.

Saber, an atheist from a Coptic Christian family, was arrested in September after neighbours accused him of posting links to the US film "The Innocence of Muslims" denigrating the Prophet Mohammad. He can appeal against the ruling if he pays $167 bail.

Saber was initially accused of circulating links to the 14-minute YouTube trailer for the Innocence of Muslims. He denied promoting the video, but later faced charges over statements critical of Islam and Christianity which police investigators allegedly found online and on his computer at his home.

1252 GMT: Egypt. Changing its position, the opposition National Salvation Front, has said it will press for a "No" vote in the referendum on the draft Constitution.

The Front had initially called for a postponement of the referendum.

"We will vote 'no'," former Presidential candidate and Arab League chief Amr Moussa said.

Moussa also said he and fellow Front leaders --- Nobel Peace Prize laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, Nasserite Hamdeen Sabahy, and Wafd Party leader Mounir Fakhry Abdel-Nour --- would attend unity talks hosted by the Army. However, the military has said the talks were postponed due to a lack of responses.

1203 GMT: Israel-Palestine. Israeli Foreign Minister Avigdor Lieberman has said West Jerusalem will withhold tax revenues from the Palestinian administration until at least March.

The Israelis announced at the end of November that the step was being taken because of $200 million owed by the Palestinian Authority for Israeli electricity. However, the cut-off was seen as a punishing response to the successful Palestinian bid for UN recognition as an Observer State days earlier.

Israel collects about $100 million every month in duties on behalf of the Palestinian Authority in the West Bank. The money is primarily used to pay public sector salaries.

"The Palestinians can forget about getting even one cent in the coming four months, and in four months' time we will decide how to proceed," Lieberman said in a speech on Tuesday night.

Lieberman referred to the UN recognition in his statement, "Israel is not prepared to accept unilateral steps by the Palestinian side, and anyone who thinks they will achieve concessions and gains this way is wrong."

Yasser Abed Rabbo, a senior Palestinian official, said earlier this month that Israel was guilty of "piracy and theft" by refusing to hand over the funds. The European Union criticised West Jerusalem on Monday for withholding the money.

1012 GMT: Egypt. Ahmed Said, a senior member of the opposition National Salavation Front, says it will attend Wednesday's unity talks called by the army and expected to include President Morsi.

"We will be represented. That is the plan so far," Said said. "We are starting a meeting to decide the level of representation."

1004 GMT: Egypt. Human Rights Watch has called on the Egyptian Public Prosecutor to investigate the claimed detention and abuse of at least 49 anti-government protesters by Muslim Brotherhood members, amid clashes at the Presidential Palace last Wednesday and Thursday.

Video circulating last week claimed a "torture chamber" run by the Brotherhood. A New York Times article on Monday set out the claims of abuses, with detainees held on the pavement for several hours, hands bound, and beaten in an attempt to force confessions that they had been paid by foreign governments to instigate violence.

At least 10 people were killed and 748 injured in the clashes.

0959 GMT: Palestine. Prisoners’ rights group Addameer has said its offices in Ramallah were raided by the Israeli military early Tuesday morning.

Addameer reports that four laptops, a hard disk, and a video camera were among items taken and that the office was ransacked.

It is the first raid of Addameer since 2002.

The offices of the Union of Palestinian Women’s Committee and the Palestinian NGO Network were also reportedly raided and ransacked on Monday night.

0923 GMT: Egypt. State-run Nile TV reports that the referendum on the draft Constitution will now take place over two Saturdays --- 15 and 22 December.

The Government appears to have made the move because of a shortage of judges to supervise the referendum. Many jurists, including 90% of the membership of the Judges' Club, are refusing to oversee the ballot.

0903 GMT: Egypt. After Tuesday's delay of a $4.8 billion IMF loan, at the request of the Morsi Government, Carina Kamel of Al Arabiya describes the political and economic "crisis":

Egypt’s economic prospects are far from sound after its tumultuous two year transition. The budget deficit widened to nearly LE 70 billion ($11.4 billion) in the last quarter, foreign exchange reserves dropped to $15.4 billion in November and the Egyptian pound is trading at 8 year lows versus the U.S. dollar.

Economists say the loan is crucial to staving off a balance of payments crisis and plugging the deficit which reached 11 percent in the financial year ending in June. The standby agreement, approved on a ‘staff-level’ in Cairo last month, would provide nearly $5bn in financing from the fund itself and unlock more than $14bn in external financing from other donors such as the United States, the European Union and international financing institutions.

Experts described the delay as a “serious but not yet terminal” blow to the economy’s post-revolution transition and said it was clear the decision to postpone negotiations was driven by the deepening constitutional crisis that has gripped the country over the past few weeks.

0856 GMT: Libya. Military prosecutors have accused Mustafa Abdel Jalil, interim leader after the fall of the Qaddafi regime, of abusing power and undermining national unity after questioning him over the death of a general who led insurgents in the uprising.

Prosecutors were investigating the July 2011 assassination of Abdel Fatah Yunes, three months before the fall of Muammar Qaddafi, after being recalled from the front line for questioning by a panel of judges about the military campaign.

Abdel Jalil was freed on bail but a travel ban was issued against him until he appears before a military court in Benghazi on 20 February.

0850 GMT: Tunisia. The Government has reached an agreement with the UGTT labour union to avoid a nationwide strike.

Government spokesman Ridha Kazdaghli said the deal was reached Tuesday after day-long negotiations. The deputy head of UGTT, Belgacem Ayari, said the talks were “positive”

The UGTT has criticised the Government over a series of economic issues; however, it was prompted to call the strike by claims that a demonstration had been attacked by Government supporters.

0800 GMT: Palestine. The Associated Press reports on the rebuilding of tunnels under the Egyptian-Gazan border, break the Israeli blockade, after many of them were destroyed by Israeli airstrikes in last month's war:

The 12-kilometer (eight-mile) slice of land at the Gaza Strip's southern tip is humming around the clock with workers carting in cement, bricks, gravel and scaffolding. The quick rebound has raised questions about how much damage Israel inflicted on the tunnels during last month's eight-day air offensive.

Anwar Abu Lebdeh and seven other workers were laying bricks on a recent day to rebuild the entrance to a 500-meter (550-yard) tunnel battered by an Israeli airstrike last month. Nearby, workers hauled cement sacks on their shoulders, and a bulldozer lifted gravel onto a nearby truck. After loading up at tunnel sites, trucks lumbered over to Hamas government points to pay taxes on their cargo.

"It's our source of life, this is the only job we could find. I have been working here for five years," said Abu Lebdeh, 24, who had to slog through mud left by heavy rain to get the job done.

0350 GMT: Egypt. Thousands of protesters held competing rallies in Cairo on Tuesday night for and against President Morsi for and against President Morsi and the draft Constitution, scheduled for a referendum on Saturday.

The opposition gathered near the Presidential Palace, held back by Republican Guards and hastily-constructed walls which a few hundred reportedly managed to scale. Morsi's supporters rallied three miles at Nasr City's Rabaa Al-Adawiya mosque.

The pro-Government demonstrators chanted "Islam is returning", "Yes to the constitution" and "Morsi is the elected president", as Muslim clerics delivered encouraging speeches.  At the Presidential Palace, the chants were "Down with the Muslim Brotherhood", "Down with the rule of the Supreme Guide", and "Two cannot be trusted; the army and the Brotherhood."

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