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Thousands stage anti-Morsi protests

Thousands of Egyptians have marched across the country, chanting against the rule of the Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, in a fresh wave of protests.

The protests continue a week of political rioting that engulfed the country and left up to 60 people dead.

The violence prompted Mr Morsi to declare a state of emergency in three restive Suez Canal cities, impose a curfew that thousands of the cities' angry residents defied in night rallies, and left him with eroding popularity in the street.

Today, thousands of protesters in the Mediterranean city of Port Said at the northern tip of Suez Canal, which witnessed the worst clashes and biggest number of causalities the past days, pumped their fists in the air while chanting, "Leave, leave, Morsi."

They threatened to escalate pressure with civil disobedience and a work stoppage at the vital Suez Canal authority if their demand for punishment of those responsible for protester deaths is not met.

"The people want the Republic of Port Said," protesters chanted, voicing a wide sentiment among residents that they are fed up of negligence and mistreatment by central government and that they want to see virtual independence. Buses carrying protesters from two other Suez Canal cities of Suez and Ismailia carried more protesters to the Port Said rallies.

Last week's violence first erupted on the eve of the second anniversary of 2011 uprising that toppled authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak's regime. It accelerated a day later when security forces fired at protesters killing at least 11 dead, most of them in the city of Suez.

The next day, riots exploded in Port Said after a court convicted and sentenced to death 21 defendants - mostly locals - for a mass soccer riot in the city's main stadium a year ago. Residents saw the verdict as politicised. Over the next few days, around 40 people were killed in the city in unrest that saw security forces firing on a funeral.

February 1 marks the first anniversary of the mass soccer riot in Port Said that left 74 people dead mostly fans of Al-Ahly, Egypt's most popular soccer team.

Egypt's main opposition political grouping, the National Salvation Front, called for today's protests in Cairo, demanding Mr Morsi form a national unity government and amend the constitution, moves they say would prevent the Islamist from governing solely in the interest of his Muslim Brotherhood group.