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Mursi's hardline allies call on him to give ground

By Tom Perry

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi's hardline Islamist allies in al-Gamaa al-Islamiya want him to call a referendum on early presidential elections to avoid bloodshed and a military coup, Tarek al-Zumar, a senior member of the group said on Wednesday.

The former armed group that is one of Mursi's few remaining allies has been advising the head of state to call for the vote in the two days since the army issued a deadline for politicians to resolve the political conflict by Wednesday.

"We find ourselves faced with the necessity of convincing the president to accept a referendum on early presidential elections," Zumar told Reuters in a telephone interview. "This is what we hope will be reached in the next few hours."

Mursi did not propose the idea of an early presidential election a speech to the nation on Tuesday, calling instead for parliamentary polls.

"This peaceful, constitutional transfer (of power) will spare blood," Zumar said, adding that it would also protect the constitution that was passed into law in December.

He said the army's statements appeared to presage a coup, but this "can be avoided if the president decides to hold a referendum on early presidential elections".

Asked if he feared more violence unless a solution is agreed, Zumar said: "Of course, there are many parties that playing with Egypt's security, and which want to exploit the current moment to set off sectarian struggles and civil wars."

The Gamaa Islamiya, which renounced the armed struggle more than a decade ago and formed a political party after the 2011 uprising that overthrew Hosni Mubarak, has taken part in recent rallies in support Mursi.

The president's appointment of a Gamaa Islamiya member as governor of the historic central city of Luxor, where the group staged its bloodiest attack on foreign tourists in 1997, fuelled anger at Mursi ahead of protests demanding he resign.

(Reporting by Tom Perry; Editing by Paul Taylor)

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