Amid political tensions and against a backdrop of calls for mass street protests Friday, representatives of different Egyptian political forces met Wednesday to begin a national reconciliation dialogue.
The meeting, led by Interim President Adly Mansour, was attended by Vice President Mohamed ElBaradei, representatives of several political forces, the Sunni Islam institute of Al-Azhar, and the Egyptian Coptic Church.
The meeting was boycotted by the Muslim Brotherhood, with its leaders describing it as "illegitimate" and a "coup against democracy." The group said it would continue organising mass protests until Mohamed Morsi, Egypt's deposed president who hails from the Brotherhood, is back in office.
According to presidential sources, invitations for the national reconciliation sessions were directed to most secular forces, on top of which the National Salavation Front (NSF) which spearheaded the 30 June Revolution against the regime of Morsi.
Invitations were also directed to El-Nour and Al-Watan parties, two ultraconservative Salafist political currents which were once allies of the Muslim Brotherhood.
A number of intellectual figures, such as high-profile novelist Bahaa Taher, also said they received invitations. On the list of participants are representatives of Arab tribes, unionists, and secular members of the dissolved Shura Council.
Presidential spokesman Ahmed El-Muslimani said at a press conference Wednesday that "representatives of the military or the judiciary are not part of the national reconciliation dialogue sessions." "These two national institutions are above any conflicts and are not in emnity with any forces," said El-Muslimani.
Asked about the negative impact of the Muslim Brotherhood's boycott of the dialogue sessions, El-Muslimani said the prime objective of was to reach a unified stand among political forces on a roadmap to full democratic rule.
Vice President El-Baradei told the opening session that all participants must undertake to respect the law, not issue threats against the country's security, or have a hand in terrorising citizens. "While reconciliation sessions are keen not to exclude any forces from the political arena, they also aim to achieve stability and democracy," El-Baradie said.