Fathi Sourour, the speaker, said on Sunday: "The prime minister (Ahmed Nazif) has informed me of the president's (Hosni Mubarak's) decision to extend the state of emergency."

He said he was sending the request to a committee for preliminary review.

Emergency law has been in force in Egypt since October 1981, when Anwar Sadat, the president, was assassinated and Mubarak took office.

It gives the government wide powers to detain people without charge and restrict civil liberties.

Mubarak promised during his election campaign last year that he would replace emergency law with anti-terrorism legislation.

This year he said the switch could take 18 months to two years and the government cannot allow a gap between the two.

Emergency law would lapse at the beginning of June without parliamentary approval of an extension, which is a foregone conclusion when the ruling National Democratic Party (NDP) controls more than two thirds of the seats.

But the opposition Muslim Brotherhood, which has 88 of the 454 seats in parliament, says it will vote against it, along with most of the small opposition groups.

About 60 members, expecting the request, came to Sunday's session wearing black sashes inscribed "No to Emergency Law".