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NSF to attend Egypt national dialogue if conditions met

Egypt's main opposition coalition puts forward four conditions for participating in the next round of President Morsi's national dialogue initiative

Ahmed Eleiba , Thursday 3 Jan 2013
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Presidential aide Pakinam El-Sharkawy contacted members of the opposition group the National Salvation Front and asked them to join the seventh national dialogue meeting with the presidency, a source from the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told Ahram Online.

The series of dialogue meetings were launched by President Mohamed Morsi last month during the deepening political crisis but were widely boycotted by the opposition. So far, only Islamist groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, the Salafist Calling and Al-Wasat Party together with the liberal group Ghad Al-Thawra have attended.

Ahmed Sobie, a leading member of the FJP, underlined that only through dialogue can Egypt’s political forces put their differences aside and come to a common agreement about urgent matters.

“We are facing important legislative decisions, including the new parliamentary elections law,” Sobie said. “We also would like to discuss the controversial articles of the constitution. President Morsi wants to discuss all these articles carefully before refering it to the House of Representatives (parliament's lower house) after it is elected.”

Sobie added that the agreement reached arround the controvertial constitution articles "will be binding" on the parliament expected to be elected within the coming three months.

A source in the FJP told Ahram Online that Morsi plans to send all controversial articles to parliament after all opposition forces, including the NSF, have discussed them. "Some Brotherhood leaders like Mohamed El-Beltagy had wanted to begin the debate over the controversial issues. However, other members, such as Saad El-Katatny, the head of the FJP, had wanted to wait until the NSF joins the dialogue before opening the discussion about the controversial articles ... and the new electoral law, in order to keep the door open to all suggestions and negotiations, to be able to reach a comporomise," the source added.

President Morsi is also planning to open another dialogue on Egypt’s economic situation with the attendance of a wider spectrum of the opposition in an attempt to bridge the current gap between the presidency and the oppositon, the source told Ahram Online.   

For its part, the NSF is expected to release a statement Thursday evening with four conditions for joining the president’s dialogue, Abdel Ghaffar Shukr, the head of the Socialist Popular Alliance and member of the NSF told Ahram Online. The first condition is that the presidency announce all members participating in the dialogue before it begins. Second, that a clear list be made of all the points to be discussed in the meeting. Third, that all executive branches confirm that they are committed to everything agreed upon in the meetings. Finally, that the presidency offer guarantees that all recommendations will be applied.

Days before the referendum on the new constitution in December, President Morsi invited the opposition, led by the NSF, to a dialogue in order to reach national consensus before the constitution was put to the public. The NSF and other opposition groups, however, turned down the offer, arguing that the meeting would be "pointless." It was widely perceived that Morsi's 22 November constitutional declaration, by which he granted himself unchallengeable powers, was in order to push through the constitution largely drafted by the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails. The NSF regarded calls for dialogue as duplicitous.

Morsi, after the new constitution was passed, again invited the opposition to engage in dialogue, in particular over contentious articles in the constitution. On Tuesday, former Egyptian Vice President Mahmoud Mekki announced that eight NSF members would participate in the next round of dialogue talks, 9 January.

However, on Wednesday, Hussein Abdel Ghany, spokesman of the NSF, said that Egypt's main opposition coalition would not join the seventh session of the national dialogue. "We are not against any serious dialogue," Abdel Ghany told Ahram Online, "but we have many doubts that the conditions presented by Shukr will be accepted and if they are not we will not participate on Saturday."

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