‘Talks only after Mubarak leaves’

Opposition coalition says they will hold talks with military on transition only after president stands down.

IAEA Director General Mohamed El Baradei Speaks About Non-Proliferation
Massive protests over the past week have shaken Mubarak’s 30-year grip on power [AFP]

A coalition of opposition groups have told Egypt’s government that they would only begin talks with the military on a transition to democracy once president Hosni Mubarak stands down.

Massive protests over the past week have shaken Mubarak’s 30-year grip on power, forcing him to appoint a deputy and new cabinet.

But protesters, emboldened by an army vow not to use force against them, say they will continue until Mubarak quits.

“Our first demand is that Mubarak goes. Only after that can dialogue start with the military establishment on the details of a peaceful transition of power,” said Mohammed al-Beltagi, a former member of parliament from the Muslim Brotherhood.

Beltagi said the opposition was operating under an umbrella group, the National Committee for Following up the People’s Demands, which includes the Brotherhood, the National Association for Change headed by Mohamed El Baradei, political parties and prominent figures including Coptic Christians.

Beltagi’s comments were echoed by El Baradei and another opposition officials.

“There can be dialogue but it has to come after the demands of the people are met and the first of those is that president Mubarak leaves,” El Baradei told Al Arabiya television, saying the dialogue would involve transitional power arrangements.

“I hope to see Egypt peaceful and that’s going to require as a first step the departure of president Mubarak. If president Mubarak leaves, then everything will progress correctly.”

Mubarak has used the Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest opposition group, to present himself as a bastion against Islamism. He accused Islamists this week of subverting the protests, which include Egyptians from all walks of life, to provoke disorder and looting.

Government feelers

Beltagi said the government had contacted opposition groups through Sayed Badawi, head of the liberal Wafd party, but he declined to say who had been in touch.

A Brotherhood statement in the name of its leader Mohammed Badie said it did not recognise the legality of any government decisions since January 25, when the protests began.

It demanded that the judge who heads the constitutional court take over as transitional president and that an interim cabinet organise parliamentary elections. A presidential vote would follow constitutional amendments enacted by the assembly.

Senior Brotherhood figure Essam al-Erian said this would rule out talking to Omar Suleiman, who Mubarak made his deputy on Saturday.

“Even after (Mubarak goes), we refuse to deal with Omar Suleiman,” he said. Beltagi said Suleiman was acceptable as someone appointed by the military to speak for them in talks.

Suleiman said on Monday he had been authorised by Mubarak to begin talks but did not give details.

Beltagi said future negotiations would involve discussions on a coalition government, a temporary president, dissolving parliament and free elections, but the timetable and framework would only come in talks once Mubarak is out.

Mustafa Naggar of El Baradei’s group said the request for talks had come from Anas Fiki, the information minister, and Ahmed Shafiq, the new prime minister. He also said the offer was rejected until Mubarak gives up power.

Naggar said the talks could lead to a “board of trustees” who would be in power for three months to organise parliamentary elections and constitutional reforms.

“We demand that a board of trustees, is formed for three months. In those three months, this group will work to form an emergency transitional government for two years,” he said.

“During the three months the board will introduce amendments to articles 76, 77 and 88 of the constitution to allow independents to run (for president). Also during those three months a new parliamentary election will be held.”

Those articles govern how many times the president can run for office, conditions for running for president and rules on oversight of parliamentary elections.

Naggar said the “board of trustees” could include El Baradei, the former International Atomic Energy Agency chief, as well as former Nobel Prize for Chemistry winner Ahmed Zewail, Omar Suleiman and army chief-of-staff Sami Anan.

Source: Reuters