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Egypt Opposition Doubts Talks Will Resolve Crisis


Egyptian anti-government demonstrators and members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement pray in front of Egyptian soldiers at Cairo's Tahrir Square, February 7, 2011

Egyptian anti-government demonstrators and members of the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood movement pray in front of Egyptian soldiers at Cairo's Tahrir Square, February 7, 2011

After 14 days of massive protests against him, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak remains in power and opposition groups doubt that talks with his government will resolve the country's crisis.

Their numbers are less than they were before, but the thousands of anti-Mubarak protesters camping on Cairo's Tahrir Square say they will not abandon their fight until Egypt's leader of nearly 30 years leaves.

Opposition groups say their talks with President Mubarak's government Sunday did not yield concrete results. They say the dialogue has not ended, but they are waiting for the leadership to make concessions before calling off the protests. The banned Muslim Brotherhood agreed to join talks for the first time.

President Mubarak has made concessions over the past week that include appointing a Vice President Omar Suleiman, announcing he will not seek reelection this year, and his party has seen the resignation of its top leaders.

Key Players in Egypt's Crisis

  • President Hosni Mubarak: The 82-year-old has ruled Egypt for 30 years as leader of the National Democratic Party. Egypt's longest-serving president came to power after the assassination of his predecessor, Anwar Sadat.
  • Mohamed ElBaradei: The Nobel Peace laureate and former Egyptian diplomat has gained international attention as a vocal critic of Mr. Mubarak and his government. Until recently he headed the U.N.'s International Atomic Energy Agency, and he has lived outside Egypt for years. ElBaradei founded the nonpartisan movement National Association for Change, and has offered to lead a transitional administration in Egypt if Mr. Mubarak steps down.
  • Vice President Omar Suleiman: The new Egyptian vice president has served as head of intelligence and is a close ally of President Mubarak. He earned international respect for his role as a mediator in Middle East affairs and for curbing Islamic extremism.
  • Ayman Nour: The political dissident founded the Al Ghad or "tomorrow" party. Nour ran against Mr. Mubarak in the 2005 election and was later jailed on corruption charges. The government released him in 2009 under pressure from the United States and other members of the international community.
  • Muslim Brotherhood: The Islamic fundamentalist organization is outlawed in Egypt, but remains the largest opposition group. Its members previously held 20 percent of the seats in parliament, but lost them after a disputed election in late 2010. The group leads a peaceful political and social movement aimed at forming an Islamic state.

The protesters and some in the opposition want him to leave power - and the country - immediately.

Egyptians on Monday woke up to another day of tension, but signs of normalcy are slowly returning to the capital. Banks reopened after being closed for days, and streets were for the first time in more than a week choked with traffic as people return to work.

In Sunday's meeting, Suleiman also offered to ease restrictions on press freedom and to lift a deeply unpopular emergency law when the security situation permits. Mr. Mubarak introduced the law on taking office in 1981. It gives Egyptian security forces far-reaching powers to detain people perceived as threats to the state.

Egyptian opposition figure and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei was not invited to the talks. In an interview with U.S. television network NBC, he criticized the meeting as "opaque" and said "nobody knows who is talking to whom at this stage."

The talks were the first known discussions in years between the Egyptian government and the Muslim Brotherhood. The Islamist group is banned from operating publicly, but its members have served in parliament as independents.

The United Nations estimates more than 300 people have died and thousands have been wounded in Egypt since the anti-Mubarak protests began.

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

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