Govt, oppn begin talks as protesters observe ''Day of Martyrs''


Cairo, Feb 6 (PTI) Egypt''s opposition groups, includingthe banned Muslim Brotherhood, today met Vice President OmarSuleiman to press their "legitimate demands", even as centralCairo remains flooded with demonstrators who observed ''Day ofMartyrs'' to honour those killed in the anti-government unrest.

The landmark talks aimed at bringing calm and an endto the 13-day old protests against President Hosni Mubarak''s30-year rule came a day after the top leadership of Egypt''sruling National Democratic Party resigned en masse.

The top executive of the NDP, which includes Mubarak''sson Gamal Mubarak who is head of the powerful policiescommittee, resigned from the party.

According to the Brotherhood''s website, group''s seniorleaders began the talks, demanding an immediate elimination ofEmergency Law and guarantees for peaceful protests.

"We are starting a round of talks to know how seriousthey are about responding to the demands of the people," saidBrotherhood spokesman Gamal Abul Nasser.

Brotherhood, which is officially banned in Egypt butenjoys popular support, said it would drop out if demandsexpressed by the protesters that President Mubarak must stepdown is not met.

The talks are backed by US Secretary of State HillaryClinton who said the government''s dialogue with the oppositionmust be given time.

Meanwhile, the demonstrators rejected the shuffle inNDP as a cosmetic move as they managed to keep their positionin the Tahrir Square -- the hub of anti-regime protests incentral Cairo -- despite a heavy army presence and attacks bypro-government supporters.

The Egyptian president has remained defiant, refusingto step down immediately, as per the protesters'' demands.

The protesters described Sunday as "Day of Martyrs",to honour those killed in the protests. They have called forfresh multi-million-strong marches on Tuesday and Friday.

The Egyptian army has tightened security around thesquare and prevented food from reaching protesters.

At least 300 people are believed to have been killedand thousands injured since the protests began on January 25,according to the UN high commissioner for human rights.

Meanwhile, Hossam Badrawi has been named as the newsecretary-general of the NDP, replacing Safwat El-Sherif, aMubarak loyalist.

Badrawi, seen by many as a liberal, will also replaceGamal Mubarak as head of the party''s policies bureau.

Other new appointees include: Mohamed Ragah Ahmed,Mohamed Ahmed Abd El-Illah, Maged Mahmoud Younes El-Shirbiny,Mohamed Ahmed Abd El-Salam Hebah and Dr Mohamed Mostafa Kamal,Al Jazeera channel reported. .

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