New Egyptian cabinet holds first meeting

Monday 07 February 2011 21.54
Hosni Mubarak - Coming under pressure to quit
Hosni Mubarak - Coming under pressure to quit

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak's new cabinet has held its first full meeting since an uprising started nearly two weeks ago.

There has been no concrete progress in talks with Islamists and opposition groups, who have demanded the 82-year-old president step down immediately.

While protesters have vowed to stay in central Cairo until he quits, Mr Mubarak has said his resignation would further destabilise Egypt.

Opponents to the president's 30-year rule say concessions agreed so far are insufficient.

On the 14th day of the uprising, Cairo’s Tahrir Square is still filled with anti-regime protestors adamant that the start of dialogue with opposition groups will not divert their campaign to unseat Mubarak.

US President Barack Obama said Egypt had changed forever and called for a ‘representative government’ but stopped short of calling on Mr Mubarak, an old US ally, to quit immediately.

Pressed on the timing of Hosni Mubarak’s exit, President Obama told Fox television on Sunday: ‘Only he knows what he’s going to do. Here’s what we know is that Egypt is not going to go back to what it was.

‘He’s not running for re-election. His term is up this year,’ he added.

Vice President Omar Suleiman has held talks with opposition groups, including the banned but influential Muslim Brotherhood, but there is no immediate breakthrough in the standoff.

Government spokesman Magdi Radi said the parties had agreed to form a committee of judges and politicians ‘to study and propose constitutional amendments and required legislative amendments... by the first week of March’.

Negotiators also agreed to open an office for complaints about the treatment of political prisoners, loosen media curbs, lift an emergency law ‘depending on the security situation,’ and reject foreign interference.

But Mr Suleiman refused another key demand of the opposition, saying he would not assume Hosni Mubarak's powers and rule in his place during the transition.

Not all of the opposition movements involved in the revolt against Mubarak’s rule were present at the talks. Former UN nuclear watchdog head and leading dissident Mohamed ElBaradei was not invited.