Egyptian protesters clash over draft charter

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CAIRO — Egyptian Islamists brandishing swords clashed with opponents of a draft constitution today in Alexandria as tensions rose on the eve of a referendum on the sharply disputed charter that has plunged the country into weeks of turmoil.

At least 19 people were reported injured in the violence in Alexandria, which broke out after an ultraconservative cleric urged worshippers to vote “yes” and described the opposition as “followers of infidels.”

The crisis pits Egypt’s newly empowered Islamists against the country’s liberals and supported by a large sector of apolitical moderate Muslims. Both sides stepped up their campaigns after weeks of violence and harsh divisions that have turned Saturday’s vote into a fight over Egypt’s post-revolutionary identity.

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