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'Talks Only After Mubarak Leaves'

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


Protesters demonstrate near a torn picture of Gamal Mubarak, son of Hosni Mubarak, in Alexandria on January 25. (Photograph: Reuters)

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.

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.

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.

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.

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