Opposition leaders have called Egyptian president Mohamed Morsi's annulment of a controversial decree to expand his powers a "meaningless gesture", after weeks of widespread riots and protests against it.

The legislation, issued on the 22nd November, allowed Morsi to make decisions unchallenged by Egypt's judiciary, stoking accusations that he was returning the country to a dictatorship like that of his ousted predecessor, Hosni Mubarak.

Opposition leaders say that the move is already too late as Morsi has already used the decree to pass an controversial Islamist draft charter.

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Egypt's military have taken a prominent role in quelling demonstrations

Khaled Dawood, the spokesperson for the National Salvation Front, said annulling the decree was "relatively meaningless".

"The key issue of securing the process of adopting of the constitution is done," he told Al Jazeera.

A planned referendum on a new constitution will still go ahead on the 15th December.

The National Salvation Front (NSF), Egypt's main opposition party, dismissed the move as insufficient.

A NSF spokesman told the BBC: "My first personal impression is that it is a limited and insufficient step. We repeatedly said that among our top demands is for the referendum to be delayed."

Speaking to the BBC World Service, Ahmed Said, leader of Free Egyptians Party and a member of the front, said: "This constitution does not represent Egyptians.

"We need to take time. He wants the constitution, because they want the parliament, they want the Shura council. It all has to do with the Muslim Brotherhood. They want to take over everything."

Said, a leading member of the NSF said the decision to press ahead with the referendum was "making things a lot worse."

He told Reuters: "I cannot imagine that after all this they want to pass a constitution that does not represent all Egyptians."

Morsi had originally claimed the decree was necessary to "safeguard the revolution" but opponents quickly took to the streets to vent their fury at what they saw as a power-grabbing move.

Clashes between protestors and police became a regular occurrence over the past week, many centered around Cairo's Tahir Square, the site of the 2011 Arab Spring demonstrations.

Seven people have been killed and around 700 injured.

Morsi was forced to surround his presidential compound with tanks, barbed wire and armed members of the Revolutionary Guard.

According to the Guardian, Morsi is set to introduce a new law that will grant the military powers of arrest until a new constitution is passed.

Military leaders had earlier issued a statement saying: "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."

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood party welcomed the army's "balanced" line.

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  • Egyptian army soldiers set up barbed wire barricades and deploy tanks outside of the Egyptian presidential palace in Cairo on December 6, 2012, after a night of clashes between supporters and opponents of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian man shouts slogans during a march towards the presidential palace in Cairo on December 4, 2012, protesting President Mohamed Morsi's decree widening his powers. (Gianluigi Guercia/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters try to detain an opposition protester during clashes outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian protesters flashes the victory sign as he holds a poster in Arabic that reads, "leave," outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi arrive outside the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi clash with anti-Morsi protesters outside the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Muslim Brotherhood members and supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi arrive outside the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi clash with anti-Morsi protesters outside the Egyptian presidential palace on December 5, 2012 in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • A supporter of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, pictured at right, chants slogans during a demonstration outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • An Egyptian protester holds a poster with Arabic that reads, "leave," during a demonstration outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Opponents of President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Supporters of Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi chant slogans during a demonstration outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. Supporters of Morsi and opponents clashed outside the presidential palace. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

  • Fireworks burst over Tahrir Square as protesters gather in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in front of the main gate of the presidential palace, background, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian protesters carry national flags and chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace, seen in the background, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • An Egyptian protester holds placard in Arabic that reads, "yes for the rights of martyrs," during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a rally in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian riot police stand guard behind barbed wire while protesters chant anti Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a demonstration in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Protesters chant slogans and wave national flags in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • An Egyptian protester takes a photo with her mobile phone as she chants slogans in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • Protesters chant slogans and wave national flags in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • An Egyptian walks past a stand displaying state-owned newspapers in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nariman El-Mofty)

  • A boy watches as an Egyptian security lay out barbed wire along streets leading to the Itihadiya presidential palace in the neighbourhood of Heliopolis in Cairo, on December 4, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters chant slogans and wave Egyptian national flags in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • Egyptian security lay out barbed wire along streets leading to the Itihadiya presidential palace in the neighbourhood of Heliopolis in Cairo, on December 4, 2012. (AFP/Getty Images)

  • Egyptian protesters chant anti-Muslim Brotherhood slogans during a rally in front of the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • Egyptian Constitutional Assembly secretary general Amr Darrag holds a copy of the new Egyptian constitution draft on December 4, 2012 during a apress conference at the Shura Council in Cairo, Egypt. (GIANLUIGI GUERCIA/AFP/Getty Images)

  • Protesters pass a banner with Arabic that reads, "Ahmed Gomaa severely wounded in the brain and is lying in intensive care," referring to the injuries sustained by Gomaa, a photographer working for the Associated Press, who was severely beaten on Nov. 27 by Egyptian security forces while covering clashes in Tahrir Square, in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 4, 2012. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo)

  • Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi’s supporters, background, clash with opponents, foreground, outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Dec. 5, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)