Egypt: Muslim Brotherhood meets with vice president; protests contunue

Opponents of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak met with Vice President Omar Suleiman on Feb. 6, but rejected an offer to be included in political reform plans, and renewed their demands that Mubarak step down. That Suleiman agreed to sit down with the groups—which included the officially banned Muslim Brotherhood—was itself an historic concession, but the talks produced no breakthrough in the two-week-old standoff. Despite cold and wet weather, Cairo’s Tahrir Square remains occupied by thousands of protesters, who spent the night sleeping on the ground in front of tanks to block the army from advancing on the square.

Mohamed ElBaradei, who has emerged as the visible leader of the protest movement, was not invited to the talks, which took place in a palatial government hall under a huge portrait of the absent Mubarak. The talks are apparently to continue, with the Muslim Brotherhood now in the role of primary interlocutor.

Mahmud Ezzat, the Brotherhood’s number two leader, told AFP that the regime had tacitly “admitted that this is a popular revolution and its demands are legitimate. And one of our demands is that the president must leave.” Asked whether he thinks Mubarak will step down, Ezzat said: “That hinges on popular pressure, and we support the popular pressure. It must continue.”

A self-appointed council of Egypt’s elite—called the “group of wise men”—is circulating ideas to try to break the deadlock, including a proposal that Mubarak delegate his powers to Suleiman and step down in everything but name, keeping the presidency title for the time being at least. The “wise men” have also met with Suleiman in recent days. (AFP, Middle East Online, BBC News, The Independent, Feb. 6)

See our last post on the struggle in Egypt.

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