CAIRO, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Egyptian military leaders Saturday called on President Mohamed Morsi and political opposition leaders to resolve their dispute or face military intervention.
"The armed forces ... realize their responsibility to preserve the higher interests of the country, and to secure and protect vital targets, public institutions and the interests of innocent citizens," the army said in a statement read on Egyptian TV by a spokesman. "The armed forces affirm that dialogue is the best and only way to reach consensus. The opposite of that will bring us to a dark tunnel that will result in catastrophe and that is something we will not allow."
The opposition has called on Morsi to relinquish extraordinary powers he invoked last week and to call off a Dec. 15 referendum on ratifying a new constitution that Morsi opponents say is inadequate in terms of protecting political and religious freedoms and the rights of women, the BBC reported.
The New York Times said the official newspaper al-Ahram has reported Morsi approved legislation allowing the use of armed forces to arrest civilians in an attempt to keep order but had not yet ordered the army into action.
"President Morsi will soon issue a decision for the participation of the armed forces in the duties of maintaining security and protection of vital state institutions until the constitution is approved and legislative elections are finished," al-Ahram reported.
The Egyptian newspaper said the defense minister would determine the parameters of the military's involvement.
Morsi was conducting what he called a national dialogue at the presidential palace Saturday, following two weeks of sometimes violent demonstrations against his Nov. 22 decree asserting broad new powers.
Protesters gathered again at the palace Saturday. Morsi's opponents said his call for dialogue is inadequate, al-Masry al-Youm reported.
"The president didn't offer any incentives for dialogue," said Mohamed Abu-Shaqra. "Rather he emphasized the use of haphazard power and referred to opposition protesters across the country as a minority, as well as pointing to a third party. If he wants to start a healthy dialogue at such a critical moment, you need to show an understanding of the opposition's demands."
Protesters said their main demands were for Morsi to repeal the November decree and to scrap the referendum.
Ahram Online said the cabinet approved Morsi's plan to expand the military's authority, a move that would require Morsi to issue a constitutional declaration, The Washington Post reported.
Syrian opposition forces reach unity deal
DAMASCUS, Syria, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Syrian rebels have created a unified command structure in an effort to persuade Qatar and Saudi Arabia to give them more advanced weapons.
The Free Syrian Army -- the main armed opposition group in Syria -- came to the agreement Friday after three days of discussions among 260 rebel commanders, The New York Times reported.
The group decided on a 30-person Supreme Military Council, which will be led by Gen. Salim Idriss.
Ahmad al-Qanatri, the commander of a military battalion in northern Idlib Province, said: "The structure is good, but all on condition we get something. I am not sure we will. If we see any rockets and missiles, it will probably be the ones fired at us."
In exchange for unification, the main backers of the rebels -- Qatar and Saudi Arabia -- said they will get money and weapons to rebel fighters through the new military council rather than playing favorites among the groups, commanders said.
"Before, they were always trying to bring different factions to their side, they created divisions, but now they are helping to create unity," said Gen. Abed Farzat, a military commander from Aleppo.
Berlusconi to run for prime minister again
MILAN, Italy, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Former Italian Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi said he plans to run for his old office next year.
Berlusconi, 76, told reporters in Milan he was stepping into the breach because of a lack of effective leadership within his People of Freedom (PDL) party and was "running to win."
"It's not that we did not look ... but one needs time to be imposed as leader," Berlusconi said.
The BBC said Berlusconi was referring to the lack of popular traction for PDL Secretary General Angelino Alfano.
He also said he was running because he considered the austerity policies of Prime Minister Mario Monti to be harmful to Italy.
The latest campaign will likely cap a colorful and controversial political career for Berlusconi. He has served three terms as prime minister, building up what is believed to be a sizable personal fortune at the same time.
Berlusconi resigned from the job in 2011 after being accused of tax fraud. He has been at the center of a scandal involving an underage prostitute, although he has denied any wrongdoing.
Avalanche warning issued for French Alps
CHAMBERY, France, Dec. 8 (UPI) -- Much of the French Alps were under an avalanche warning Saturday after France received its first snowfall of the season, officials said.
Trucks traveling in the Alps Saturday were banned from using the Mont-Blanc tunnel between France and Italy, as well as other roads because of the snow, which hit France Friday, Radio France Internationale reported.
Hikers and skiers were warned Friday of "exceptional" snow and high winds have "considerably increased the risk of sudden avalanches" in mountainous areas by the sport and interior ministries.
The avalanche warnings came after two severe avalanches last week, one of which killed a woman.
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