Egypt crisis shows little signs of ending even after talks

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Rania

Cairo, Feb 7 (PTI) The embattled Egyptian regime andthe emboldened opposition groups remained deadlocked todayover the nation''s future as protesters were adamant thatPresident Hosni Mubarak should step down before progress wasmade on a deal to initiate landmark constitutional reforms.

Fresh pressure also mounted on Mubarak as US PresidentBarack Obama clearly indicated that there could be no goingback to the pre-protest era in Egypt, and said Washington wasready to work with a future representative government in thenorth African country.

Thousands of protesters stayed put at the now iconicTahrir Square for the 14th successive day and foiled attemptsby the army to squeeze them into a smaller area as Mubarak''sgovernment was holding its full cabinet meeting to focus onrestoring order.

The opposition groups did not appear too optimistic onthe deal reached with the government yesterday in abreakthrough meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman.

A statement issued from Suleiman''s office after themeeting said that the government had offered to form acommittee to suggest required constitutional amendments by thefirst week of March, pursue corrupt officials, undo curbs onmedia freedom, liberalise communication, lift an emergency lawin the country and open an office to look into the release ofpolitical prisoners.

But the opposition which included the dominant MuslimBrotherhood termed these proposals as "insufficient" anddemanded that there could be no move forward unless Mubaraksteps down.

Meanwhile, life started returning to the streets ofCairo as shops and offices opened after several days and somepeople returned to work.

Army tanks, however, continue to guard key buildingsand important installations of the city which has been at thecentre of an unprecedented uprising against the ruling regime.

The agreement reached with the regime on forming aconstitutional reform committee notwithstanding, theopposition appeared unsure on whether to trust the governmenton its promises to follow through on the deal.

A Brotherhood leader said the government has not madeany concrete movement on the ground to display its seriousnesson the question of politcal reform.

"We cannot call it talks or negotiations... The MuslimBrotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned... that (Mubarak) needs to step down in order to usher in ademocratic phase," MB leader Abdul Moneim Aboul Fotouh said.

He said he "did not see any ... seriousness so far.

They (the government) have failed to take concrete measurementon the ground".

"If they were serious, the parliament would have beendissolved, also a presidential decree ending the emergencylaw," he said. .

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