President's dialogue talks yield promise to form committee to study constitutional change
Egyptian President Morsi's national dialogue talks lead to formation of committee to study constitutional amendments
Osman El Sharnoubi, Tuesday 29 Jan 2013
President Mohamed Morsi leads meeting in absence of the NSF (Photo: Egyptian presidential spokesman's Facebook page).
Egypt's national dialogue talks, called for by President Mohamed Morsi, have resulted in an agreement to form several committees, one of which will study possible amendments to the newly passed constitution – a key opposition demand.
The largest opposition grouping, the National Salvation Front (NSF), boycotted the talks on Monday, which were mostly attended by groups close to the Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi hails.
The talks discussed the recent unrest which has left over 50 dead since Friday, the second anniversary of the January 25 Revolution.
Violence was stoked on Saturday after a court sentenced 21 people to death for their role in last year's Port Said disaster. Intense clashes in the canal city left over 30 dead on that day alone.
The NSF, comprising liberal and leftist opposition groups, deemed the dialogue "useless" and refused to take part until their demands were met.
The front's demands include sacking the cabinet, amending the constitution and dismissing the Morsi-appointed prosecutor-general.
Opposition groups say the reasons for the recent disorder are political and blame the president and cabinet for mismanaging the crisis.
Sources told Al-Ahram Arabic website that dismissing or making changes to the cabinet was not discussed at the talks except by Ayman Nour, one of the few opposition figures taking part. Many in the opposition have called specifically for the dismissal of Interior Minister Mohamed Ibrahim.
Ex-Muslim Brother and presidential candidate Abdel-Moneim Abul-Fotouh, who heads the opposition Strong Egypt Party, one of the few opposition parties participating in the talks along with Nour's Ghad Al-Thawra, criticised the opposition on Al-Nahar TV channel, urging them to work for the public interest rather than their own personal interests.
President Morsi has purportedly invited the NSF for talks again and said he would communicate with the front's leaders directly, Al-Arabic Arabic website reported.
Sources also attributed to Morsi that he would personally oversee the implementation of what is agreed at the meeting.
Al-Ahram's sources say the constitutional amendments committee will include legal and constitutional experts and politicians, six chosen by the present dialogue participants, four chosen by the NSF if it joins the dialogue.
The document produced by the committee is to be presented to the next People's Assembly. It is not clear whether the committee's recommendations will be binding. Other committees will study security, media and economic matters.
The Muslim Brotherhood, Salafist Nour Party, ultra-conservative Al-Gamaa Al-Islamiya, and Muslim Brotherhood-offshoot Wasat Party also took part in the meeting.
On Monday, people in Port Said, Suez and Ismailia defied a curfew and state of emergency announced by President Morsi, marching in their thousands to voice their rejection of the exceptional measures.
In Ismailia, protesters organised the "Curfew League," a football tournament to be played during the curfew in front of the governor's office. More demonstrations are planned for Tuesday night.
Protests and clashes continued on Monday in numerous Egyptian cities including Cairo, Alexandria, Benha, Mahalla, Mansoura, Kafr El-Sheikh, Menya, and Damanhour.