Muslim Brotherhood joins Cairo talks aimed at ending crisis

McClatchy NewspapersFebruary 6, 2011 

CAIRO, Egypt — Egypt’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, joined other opposition figures in talks with Vice President Omar Suleiman on Sunday to negotiate a way to end the mass protests demanding the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak.

In the meeting that included figures from a wide range of opposition groups and also businessmen, Suleiman discussed a number of reforms and constitutional suggestions, but stopped short of accepting demands by the opposition that he take over Mubarak’s responsibilities as head of state.

“We have decided to enter a round of talks to find out whether the officials are serious towards the people’s demands, and how prepared they are to meet them,” the Brotherhood said in a statement on itsr website.

The Brotherhood's participation in the talks, nevertheless, marked a significant change in its relationship with the government.

Just days ago Suleiman had accused the group of being behind the mass protests and said they were responsible for the looting that wracked much of Cairo a week ago after police mysteriously withdrew from their posts.

The Brotherhood, for its part, had said repeatedly that it would not join in the talks unless Mubarak resigns. Mubarak has rejected those calls.

Despite bad weather, thousands of protesters remained in Tahrir Square on Sunday, which they dubbed the "Day of the Martyrs," in memory of those who died since the revolt started two weeks ago. The protesters held Muslim prayers and Christian masses for those who lost their lives in the demonstrations.

Protesters also cheered and congratulated a couple who decided to get married in Tahrir Square on Sunday. The newly-wed couple took pictures next to army tanks that are lining the square.

Egyptian officials say 11 people have died so far, though international human rights groups put the toll at 300, and 5,000 have been injured.

The day has also been dubbed the “day of normalcy,” as banks opened and many people returned to their jobs on Sunday. The Egyptian stock market, closed since January 30th, is supposed to resume business on Monday.

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