Egypt's opposition spurns talks with Islamist leader

Opposition coalition demands that Morsi accept responsibility for 5 days of violence which have led to the deaths of 50 people.

By REUTERS
January 28, 2013 16:29
2 minute read.
Mohamed ElBaradei [file photo]

Mohamed ElBaradei 390 (R). (photo credit: Stringer Egypt / Reuters)

 
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CAIRO - Egypt's main opposition coalition will not join a national dialogue on Monday called by President Mohamed Morsi because the proposal was not genuine and the group will only attend future talks if a list of conditions are met, members said.

Morsi invited his allies and rivals to talks at 6 p.m. (1600 GMT) on Monday to try to resolve a political crisis and end violence on the streets that erupted during anti-government protests. Five days of unrest has led to 50 deaths.

The National Salvation Front, which rejected a similar call for dialogue last year during another spasm of unrest, saw the Islamist leader's call as "cosmetic and not substantive", said leading member of the coalition Mohamed ElBaradei.

"We will not go to the dialogue today," ElBaradei told a news conference after the Front's members met in Cairo to discuss the invitation.

"We will send a message to the Egyptian people and the president of the republic about what we think are the essentials for dialogue. If he agrees to them, we are ready for dialogue."

The coalition's conditions included a demand that Morsi accept responsibility for the bloodshed and agree to form a government of national salvation, echoing previously unmet demands by the opposition.

A man was shot dead on Monday in a fifth day of violence in Egypt that has killed 50 people and prompted the Islamist president to declare a state of emergency in an attempt to end a wave of unrest sweeping the Arab world's biggest nation.


Under emergency powers announced by Morsi for the cities of Port Said, Ismailia and Suez on Sunday, the army will have the right to arrest civilians and to help police restore order.

A cabinet source told Reuters any trials would be before civilian courts, but the step is likely to anger protesters who accuse Morsi of using high-handed security tactics of the kind they fought against to oust president Hosni Mubarak.



Some opposition groups have called for more protests in Cairo and elsewhere on Monday to mark the second anniversary of one of the bloodiest days in the revolution that erupted on Jan. 25, 2011, and ended Mubarak's iron rule 18 days later.

Hundreds of demonstrators in Port Said, Ismailia and Suez, cities which all lie on the economically vital Suez Canal, turned out against Morsi's decision on Sunday within moments of him speaking. Activists there pledged to defy a curfew that starts at 9 p.m. (1700 GMT).

Instability in Egypt has raised concerns in Western capitals, where officials worry about the direction of a key regional player that has signed a peace deal with Israel.

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