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Egyptian Opposition Lawmakers Protest Debate on Constitutional Amendments

Opposition lawmakers in Egypt have boycotted debate on constitutional amendments proposed by President Hosni Mubarak.

More than 100 lawmakers, mainly from the Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, protested outside the parliament building Sunday as the 454-member chamber met.

The opposition charges that the amendments would give the government sweeping security powers, line up President Mubarak's son Gamal for succession, and sideline the Muslim Brotherhood.

In a statement, the international rights group Amnesty International urged lawmakers to reject the proposed amendments.

The group described the proposed changes as, in its words, "the most serious undermining of human rights safeguards" since emergency laws were put in place in 1981 after the assassination of President Anwar Sadat.

But Foreign Minister Ahmed Aboul Gheit criticized Amnesty's statement, saying non-Egyptians have no right to comment on the internal matter.

The constitutional amendments would also reduce the role of judges in monitoring elections and ban religious groups from forming political parties.

Some information for this report was provided by AFP, AP and Reuters.