Muslim Brotherhood to Shun New Government

As Islamist parties take Egypt by storm the Muslim Brotherhood - leading the pack - says it will shun the military's new government.

Gabe Kahn. ,

Muslim Brotherhood
Muslim Brotherhood
Israel news photo: Muslim Brotherhood

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said Thursday it would shun a new council set up by Cairo's caretaker junta to help oversee the drafting of a constitution.

The popular Islamist group - backed by hard-line Salafi allies - said it feared the civilian body, which brings together politicians, presidential candidates and youth representatives, would usurp the authority of the new parliament and could become a permanent fixture in Egypt.

"After participating in the initial negotiations ... it became apparent that the advisory group will have a mandate beyond the transitional period headed by the military council," Mohamed al-Katatni, a senior member of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP) told reporters..

Al-Katatni, whose FJP party has led early polling in recent weeks, said an advisory council would "detract from the (parliament) and intervene in the formation of the founding assembly to draft the constitution".

The new parliament's primary task will be to pick a 100-strong body to write the new constitution, but the army wants its civilian advisory group and the cabinet to help set the guidelines for the ambitious project.

"The main goal of this advisory council is to co-opt the forces of the revolution further," said Khalil Anani, a political analyst, adding that the army was keen on protecting its independence from civilian and parliamentary control.

Analysts say the advisory group could become another means for the military to bypass parliament, which looks certain to have a large Islamist bloc, after it cedes power following presidential elections next June.

The army took charge in February after the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak and on Thursday unveiled the 30-member council which will have a mandate to cover discussions on international treaties and the constitution.

The advisory council has already met Chief-of-Staff Sami Annan for initial discussions on key issues, such as economic aid, which will be determined after parliament convenes.

"The advisory council has already discussed and offered its views on U.S. economic and military aid to Egypt ... and to what extent Egypt can forgo economic aid," the source said, refusing to comment on what could happen to the military aid.

Egypt's military receives $1.3 billion from Washington each year. The country has also been offered billions of dollars in economic aid and foreign loans by the Obama administration since the ouster of former President Hosni Mubarak.

The ruling caretaker junta – widely criticized by protesters for maintaining the Mubarak-era status quo – has expressed concerns that radical elements who wish to abrogate the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty and shift Egypt into the Islamist camp could cost the country the billions in US aid dollars that have given Cairo its regional stature and might.