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Army sets 10-day deadline to reform constitution

Text by News Wires

Latest update : 2011-02-15

Against a backdrop of massive strikes, the Egyptian military has instructed a panel of jurists and scholars to revise the constitution within 10 days in order to prepare a transition towards democratic rule following the end of the Mubarak regime.

AFP - Egypt's military regime warned Tuesday that a wave of strikes sweeping the country was "disastrous", as it gave a panel of civilian experts 10 days to revise the constitution.
              
Against a backdrop on ongoing nationwide walk-outs and street protests, the junta promised to rapidly restore constitutional rule following the overthrow of ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's regime.
              
The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces instructed an eight-strong panel of jurists and scholars to "amend all articles as it sees fit to guarantee democracy and the integrity of presidential and parliamentary elections."
              

"What we have seen so far is positive" - US President Barak Obama on Egypt

The panel "must finish its work in a period of no longer than 10 days after the date of this decision" and must strike down the articles giving presidents unlimited terms in office and the right to refer cases to military courts.
              
The military took power on Friday when Mubarak's 30-year-reign was brought to an end by an 18-day street revolt. Since then, Egyptian workers have begun testing the bounds of their new freedom with strike action.
              
On Sunday, the military suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament, but it has promised to oversee a six-month transition to democratic rule. It urged strikers to return to work but stopped short of ordering them to do so.
              
"The Supreme Council is aware of the economic and social circumstances society is undergoing, but these issues cannot be resolved before the strikes and sit-ins end," the state news agency MENA quoted the military as saying.
              
"The result of that will be disastrous," it added.
              
The constitutional panel got straight down to work.
              
"The armed forces want to hand over power as soon as possible. They want amendments to the constitution," said panel member Sobhi Saleh, a lawyer and former lawmaker from the Islamist opposition group the Muslim Brotherhood.
              
"We met with the field marshal and the chief of staff," Saleh told AFP, referring to the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces and Egypt's de facto head of state, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.
              
"We are revising the constitution to remove all restrictions and obstacles and to meet the aspirations of the revolution's and the people's demands."
              
The committee is headed by Tareq al-Bishari, a respected former head of Egypt's administrative court.
              
The strikes and protests abated on Tuesday as Egyptians marked the birthday of the Prophet Mohammed, but threaten to flare again as Egyptians use their newly-won freedom to press for higher wages.
              
The uprising against Mubarak has splintered into protests by workers in the transport, health care, oil, tourism and textile sectors and state-owned media and government bodies. Banks and the stock exchange are closed.
              
Meanwhile, the Muslim Brotherhood -- which was banned but broadly tolerated under Mubarak's rule -- confirmed that it plans to form an official political party to take part in upcoming legislative polls.
              
"The Muslim Brotherhood believes in the freedom to form parties and is therefore determined to have its own," said Mohammed Mursi of the group's political bureau, in a statement.
              
Egypt's best organised opposition group ran candidates as independents under the slogan "Islam is the solution" in 2005 parliamentary elections, winning around 20 percent of seats.
              
But it boycotted the second round of legislative elections last year after failing to win a single seat in the first amid widespread reports of violence and vote-rigging on behalf of the ruling party.
              
The Brotherhood belatedly joined the massive nationwide protests that led to the fall of Mubarak, but has said it will not compete in presidential elections to replace him and has called for democratic reforms.
              
The group has raised concerns in the West and among some of its secular rivals, who fear it may come to power through free elections only to then implement Islamic law in the most populous Arab country.
              
Brotherhood leaders adamantly reject such a scenario, insisting it supports the broader demands of the pro-democracy protesters who brought Mubarak down and are seeking a more open multi-party system.
              
Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit said the economy was "severely affected by the political crisis that has shaken the country" and called for international aid after calling his US, British and Saudi counterparts.
              
At the height of the revolt Egypt was haemorrhaging more than $300 million a day, according to the Egyptian unit of French bank Credit Agricole, which lowered a growth forecast for 2011 from 5.3 percent to 3.7 percent.
              
Gheit's remarks came as EU finance ministers met to discuss requests from Cairo to freeze the assets of members of Mubarak's toppled regime following widespread allegations of corruption during his rule.
              
Egypt has launched graft investigations and slapped travel bans on several former ministers, including sacked prime minister Ahmed Nazif and the hated former head of the feared police, interior minister Habib al-Adly.
              
Egypt's protest movement, inspired by the Tunisian uprising, has in turn triggered anti-government demonstrations around the Middle East, from Algeria to Iran, Bahrein and Yemen.

Date created : 2011-02-15

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