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Egypt's Morsi offers nothing to defuse crisis

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From Washington, President Barack Obama called Morsi to express "deep concern" about the deaths and injuries of protesters in Egypt, according to a White House statement.

The statement Thursday night said that Obama told Morsi that he and other political leaders in Egypt must make clear to their supporters that violence is unacceptable. Obama welcomed Morsi's call for a dialogue with opposition leaders in Egypt but stressed that such a dialogue should occur without preconditions. The United States also has urged opposition leaders to join in talks without preconditions.

Earlier Thursday, Morsi's troubles grew when another of his advisers quit to protest his handling of the crisis, raising to seven the number of those in his 17-person inner circle who have abandoned him. The only Christian in a group of four presidential assistants has also quit.

Violence persisted into the night, with a group of protesters attacking the Cairo headquarters of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, ransacking the ground floor. Another group of protesters attacked the Brotherhood's offices in the Cairo district of Maadi. Outside the president's house in his hometown of Zagazig, 50 miles north of Cairo, police fired tear gas to disperse hundreds of protesters, security officials said.

During his speech, Morsi repeated earlier assertions that a conspiracy against the state was behind his move to assume near unrestricted powers, but he did not reveal any details of the plot.

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