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Tuesday, February 15,2011

Egyptian military gives panel 10 days to produce constitutional amendments

By McClatchy-Tribune News Service

CAIRO — The Egyptian military on Tuesday ordered a special committee studying changes to the nation's constitution to come up with amendments within 10 days, an indication that fundamental changes to the system of government are not in the cards, experts said.

However, the changes apparently will allow the formation of new political parties, and the Muslim Brotherhood immediately announced it would do so. The Islamic organization has long been banned from politics but has successfully elected some of its members to parliament as individuals.

The military abrogated the constitution after taking power Friday, raising hopes in some quarters that there would be major changes not only in election laws but also a softening of the almost unlimited powers of the presidency and an end of the provision saying Islam is the national religion. The country has a significant Coptic Christian minority that often complains of discrimination.

"It's hard to think they could do all that in 10 days," said Ann Lesch, a political scientist at American University in Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood will immediately form a party to run in new parliamentary elections but will not run its own candidate for president, according to a statement on its website.

Mohsen Rady, a party leader, said that "the former tyranny of autocratic rule which had once prevented the establishment of a party will give way to immediate reform demonstrating a serious commitment to change, the granting of freedoms to all and the transition toward democracy."

A powerful sandstorm and a national religious holiday quieted most of the labor protests in Cairo that have continued since former President Hosni Mubarak turned power over to the military and left the Egyptian capital.

However, several hundred fired policemen gathered outside the Interior Ministry to demand their jobs back.


(c) 2011, Los Angeles Times.

Visit the Los Angeles Times on the Internet at http://www.latimes.com/.

Distributed by McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.

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