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Egypt opposition wary after talks

    The BBC's Jim Muir: "Protesters blocked the army from advancing into Tahrir Square and spent the night sleeping under the tracks of tanks" 
    Egypt's opposition groups say government proposals on how to end the political crisis are not enough.
    The banned Muslim Brotherhood and other groups took part in landmark talks with the government after 13 days of street protests aimed at forcing President Hosni Mubarak to resign.
    The government has proposed a review body to amend the constitution.
    The opposition says the talks are only a first step and the government's offer is insufficient.
    President Mubarak has refused to resign, saying that to do so would cause chaos. He has instead said he will not stand for re-election in September.
    There are three parallel narratives in Egypt today: that of the protesters in Tahrir Square, that of the opposition talking to the government, whilst the rest of Egypt may be a different story altogether.
    The protesters are in no mood to compromise and insist that President Mubarak step down immediately, and that parliament, which they view as the product of fraudulent election, is dissolved.
    They have gained in confidence and feel, justifiably, that the street protest has so far paid off. They also say that the opposition leaders who are talking to the government are only representing themselves, not the demonstrators.
    This is bound to complicate the task of the politicians who met Vice President Omar Suleiman. They came out of the meeting saying they are yet to be convinced that the regime is sincere in carrying out genuine political reforms.
    As to the rest of the country, its virtually impossible to know exactly where the majority stand. Arguably, those who are politically aware are cautiously optimistic. They say Egypt has changed, and will never be the same again.
    Yet no-one is sure about the shape of the final outcome. For the average Egyptian, it is safe to assume that he or she simply wants to get on with earning a living.
    Speaking to Fox News on Sunday, US President Barack Obama said the time for change in Egypt was now.
    He said the Muslim Brotherhood was only one faction in Egypt, and did not enjoy majority support but admitted that some strands of their ideology were anti-American.
    However, he said it was clear Egyptians wanted free and fair elections.
    In all, six groups were represented at Sunday's talks hosted by Vice-President Omar Suleiman, including a coalition of youth organisations, and a group of "wise men".
    Egyptian state TV said the participants had agreed to form a joint committee of judicial and political figures tasked with suggesting constitutional amendments.
    It was the first time the government and the long-banned Brotherhood have held talks.
    However, the Muslim Brotherhood said it would only take part in the talks if the government made progress on meeting its demands:
    • the immediate resignation of President Mubarak
    • lifting emergency laws
    • dissolving parliament
    • releasing all political prisoners
    "Our demands are still the same," senior Brotherhood figure Essam el-Erian told reporters in Cairo. "They didn't respond to most of our demands. They only responded to some of our demands, but in a superficial way."
    The BBC's Jon Leyne, in Cairo, says opposition members and the "wise men" who were also there told him they were sceptical of the government's moves.

    Muslim Brotherhood

    • Egypt's oldest and largest Islamist organisation
    • Founded by Hassan al-Banna in 1928
    • Has influenced Islamist movements worldwide
    • Mixes political activism with charity work
    • Banned from open political activity
    • Rejects use of violence and supports democratic principles
    • Wants to create a state governed by Islamic law
    • Slogan: "Islam is the Solution" 
    Leading opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei was not at the talks but one of his representatives met Vice-President Suleiman separately.
    Speaking to the US network NBC, he described the process as "opaque".
    He said he was proposing a one-year transitional period where Egypt would be run by a three-member presidential council as it prepared for free and fair elections.
    The Brotherhood had previously said it would not take part in the negotiations.
    The Islamist group is Egypt's most influential and well-organised opposition but it remains officially banned and its members and leaders have been subject to frequent repression.
    The Muslim Brotherhood denies accusations that it is seeking to create an Islamist state in Egypt.
    Section of a map showing Tahrir Square 
    Tens of thousands have again joined demonstrations in Cairo and other cities, calling for him to quit.
    Meanwhile, many banks opened for the first time in a week, drawing long queues as people waited to withdraw money.
    The government is seeking to revive an economy said to be losing at least $310m (£192m) a day.
    Many shops, factories and the stock exchange have been closed for days, and basic goods have been running short.
    Correspondents say many Egyptians have been wondering how quickly daily life will return to normal regardless of the outcome of the struggle for power.
    But they also say there is no let-up in the magnitude of the protests in Tahrir Square, and the mood is almost back to the festival atmosphere of the first few days, with many families and young children in attendance.
    Are you in Egypt? What are your views on the Muslim Brotherhood entering talks with officials on ending the country's political crisis? Send us your comments using the form below.

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Egypt opposition wary after talks

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