Violence, tension mar last-minute campaigning before Egypt votes on disputed draft charter

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Associated Press

Posted on December 14, 2012 at 9:03 PM

Updated Friday, Dec 14 at 9:04 PM

CAIRO (AP) — The tensions in Egypt have been evident ahead of tomorrow's referendum on a constitution drafted largely by Islamist allies of President Mohammed Morsi.

Several Muslim clerics today ignored orders from religious authorities not to use their mosques to rally support for the referendum on a new constitution. In the Mediterranean port city of Alexandria, one ultraconservative cleric called for a "yes" vote while denouncing the opposition as "followers of infidels."

The remarks sparked arguments that quickly turned into fist fights and spread into the streets and residential areas around the mosque. At least 19 people were injured, as the two sides battled with some in the crowd wielding swords and clubs. Police had to use tear gas to break up the fight.

Both sides stepped up their campaigns after weeks of violence and harsh divisions that have turned the vote into a fight over Egypt's post-revolutionary identity. Egypt's army is deploying nearly 120,000 soldiers to protect polling stations. Meanwhile, a radical Islamist group also says it plans to send members to defend the stations alongside the army and police.

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162-r-06-(Sound of supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chanting slogans, in Tahrir (tah-REER') Square)--Sound of thousands of Islamists chanting slogans as they rally in Cairo's Tahrir Square, urging voters to say 'yes' in a referendum. (14 Dec 2012)

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161-r-09-(Sound of supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chanting slogans, in Tahrir (tah-REER') Square)--Sound of supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chanting slogans and holding banners, a day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution. (14 Dec 2012)

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GRAPHICSBANK: Supporter of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chants slogans as he holds up the Quran, Islam's holy book, Cairo, Egypt, graphic element on gray (14 Dec 2012)

APPHOTO HAS109: Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans as one holds up the Quran, Islam's holy book, during a demonstration after Friday prayer, in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution that has plunged the country into turmoil and deeply divided the nation. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar) (14 Dec 2012)

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APPHOTO CAI112: Injured men take shelter during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, a day before the referendum on the constitution. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution that has plunged the country into turmoil and deeply divided the nation.(AP Photo/Ahmed Ramadan) (14 Dec 2012)

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APPHOTO KH103: Egyptian protesters attend Friday prayers before a demonstration against a constitution drafted by Islamist supporters of President Mohammed Morsi in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution that has plunged the country into turmoil and deeply divided the nation.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra) (14 Dec 2012)

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APPHOTO CAI113: Opponents of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi hold pamphlets urging a "no vote" on a constitutional referendum as cars burn during clashes between supporters and opponents of President Mohammed Morsi in Alexandria, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012, a day before the referendum on the constitution. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution that has plunged the country into turmoil and deeply divided the nation.(AP Photo) (14 Dec 2012)

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APPHOTO KH104: Egyptian protesters chant slogans as they attend a demonstration in Tahrir square in Cairo, Egypt, Friday, Dec. 14, 2012. Opposing sides in Egypt's political crisis were staging rival rallies on Friday, the final day before voting starts on a contentious draft constitution that has plunged the country into turmoil and deeply divided the nation.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra) (14 Dec 2012)

<<APPHOTO KH104 (12/14/12)>>

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