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Egypt talks break down

world Updated: Feb 07, 2011 02:22 IST
Amitava Sanyal
Amitava Sanyal
Hindustan Times
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Little progress was made at the end of the second day of discussions between Egyptian Vice-President Omar Suleiman and various opposition groups on Sunday.

The opposition is split on the way forward and tens of thousands of defiant protesters continued to throng the Tahrir (Liberation) Square for the 13th day, demanding President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

The Muslim Brotherhood, the social and political group that enjoys popular support across the country, met Suleiman for the second time on Sunday but said later that they didn’t trust the government to carry out the promised reforms. There has been no official word from Suleiman.

Some people close to the negotiations said what was certain was that the country would have a new constitution. What’s not certain yet is whether the current Parliament, an unprecedented 97% of whose seats are controlled by Mubarak’s National Democratic Party, will be dissolved before the constitutional reform.

Busy consultations are on with the various committees and councils that have been formed to tide over the crisis. Laila Takla, a former independent MP and head of the House’s foreign relations committee, told HT: "Suleiman is likely to declare on Monday the appointment of a council of 25 experts to draft a new constitution. And there should also be a referendum on it later."

Tarek Heggy, an influential liberal writer who met with the Committee of Wise Men and the Mohammed ElBaradei-led Committee of 10 on Sunday, said, “Constitutional expert Kamal About Al Magag has indicated it’ll take less than two weeks to draft a new constitution. But it’s not clear whether Parliament would be dissolved too.”

Meanwhile, at Tahrir Square Sunday’s M-Day (Martyr’s Day, in honour of the 300 who have died in the protests) turned out to be as big as Friday’s D-Day (Mubarak’s Departure Day). Sending out a strong secular message, the people who poured in held two prayer meets for the country’s Coptic Christians too.

Some bank branches were open for nearly four hours but the stock market remained closed. The pyramids, too, stayed closed for the 10th day running.