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Egypt VP rejects call to take on Mubarak powers

Youth groups form coalition, insist on Mubarak exit

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Egypt's Vice President Omar Suleiman on Sunday turned down an opposition demand he assume the powers of embattled President Hosni Mubarak during political crisis talks, an opposition participant said.

Participants in talks between the Egyptian regime and several opposition groups, including the Muslim Brotherhood, agreed, however, to form a constitutional reform committee, a government official said.

The decision by the Islamist group, which has been outlawed since 1954 but fields candidates as independents, comes as Egypt's leadership seeks to defuse mass demonstrations - now in their 13th day - by proposing reforms but stopping short of the protesters' key demand that Mubarak step down.

"Representatives from all political parties, civil societies and the council of Wise Men met with Vice President Omar Suleimen today and agreed to draft a road map," a cabinet spokesman said.

Government spokesman Magdi Radi said they agreed on "the formation of a committee, which will include the judiciary and a number of political figures, to study and propose constitutional amendments and required legislative amendments... by the first week of March."

Brotherhood response

Abdel Monem Aboul Fotouh, a senior member of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood said the government statement represented "good intentions but does not include any solid changes".

"We need President Mubarak to issue presidential decrees to change articles 76, 77, dissolve the parliament, release all political detainees the government knows very well, end emergency status," he said.

"Until then, the youth will remain on the streets and at the same time, discussions will continue," he said.

Aboul Fotouh was referring to an article of the constitution covering presidential elections, which now effectively put Mubarak's ruling party in a position to choose the next president, and another that allows the president to run for unlimited presidential terms.

It was the first time that the government has engaged in official dialogue with the Muslim Brotherhood, a group which is banned.

Radi said participants in the talks reached "consensus" on a statement that called for the constitutional reform panel and agreed to "a peaceful transition of power based on the constitution."

The statement also proposes the opening of an office to receive complaints about political prisoners, the lifting of restrictions on media and communication, and rejecting of "any foreign interference in Egyptian affairs."

Until then, the youth will remain on the streets and at the same time, discussions will continue

Abdel Monem Aboul Fotouh

Emergency law

The statement also calls for the lifting of Egypt's much-criticized emergency law, "depending on the security situation."

The talks come after a raft of government concessions aimed at placating protesters who have called for the immediate ouster of Mubarak.

But several of the groups involved in the 13 days of demonstrations have refused to participate in dialogue with the regime until Mubarak steps down.

He has said he will not stand in elections scheduled for September, but has shown no intention of stepping down before the vote.

Youth groups insist on Mubarak exit

Youth groups behind Egypt's opposition revolt formed a coalition on Sunday, insisting they will not end their occupation of Tahrir Square until President Hosni Mubarak leaves office.

A statement by the "unified leadership of the youth of the rage revolution" vowed not to end the protest in the central Cairo square until seven demands are met -- chief among them "the resignation of the president".

The statement was read by Ziad al-Oulaimi at a news conference. He is one of six leaders of the coalition, which he said was formed following clashes on January 27 in which 38 people were killed.

The coalition unites representatives of the April 6 movement, the Justice and Freedom group, the Door-Knocking Campaign, the Popular Campaign in Support of El-Baradei, the Muslim Brotherhood and the Democratic Front Party.

Other demands of the coalition include the lifting of Egypt's longstanding emergency law, the dissolution the parliament, and a national unity government to secure a peaceful transition of power and oversee constitutional reform.

They also want a judicial committee to probe the "collapse of security last week and the killing and wounding of thousands of people."

In addition, the coalition wants the Egyptian army to protect demonstrators from "the violence of criminals and thugs belonging to the corrupt regime, and to secure a supply of food and medical material to the demonstrators".

The leadership demanded the release of all detained comrades, "at the forefront our colleague Wael Ghuneim" who was arrested on January 26, the day after the mass demonstrations began.

The violence of criminals and thugs belonging to the corrupt regime, and to secure a supply of food and medical material to the demonstrators

Youth groups coalition