The Egyptian government has prevented the leader of the banned, but tolerated, Muslim Brotherhood from traveling abroad.

Media reports from Egypt say the leader, Mohammed Mahdi Akef, requested permission to travel to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage to Muslim holy sites.

The reports say Akef is required to get government permission to travel abroad. The government allowed him to travel to Saudi Arabia on a pilgrimage last year.

The Brotherhood is the largest opposition group in Egypt's parliament.

In December last year, the group won 88 seats during parliamentary elections. President Hosni Mubarak's National Democratic party won a majority. U.S. officials said reports of voter intimidation by Egyptian police raised serious concerns about political reform in Egypt.

Since December, the police have arrested hundreds of Brotherhood members at their homes and offices and during anti-government demonstrations.

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