The NYT headline:
Muslim Brotherhood Joins Egypt Talks
Members of the Muslim Brotherhood joined other opposition groups meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman on Sunday in what seemed a significant departure in the nation’s uprising and political history.
The Brotherhood is an outlawed Islamist organization often depicted by the authorities as committed to the overthrow of the secular order in the heart of the Middle East. Official attitudes toward it here have swung between outright repression and reluctant tolerance. But it has remained Egypt’s biggest opposition force against the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak.
After the meeting had started, The Associated Press said that talks included some of the top issues for the opposition — including freedom of the press and the release of those detained since antigovernment protests started — as well as agreement to begin setting up a structure to study amending the country’s constitution.Read the rest here.
A spokesman for the Muslim Brotherhood, Gamal Nassar, said the huge and sometimes violent demonstrations that have paralyzed Cairo for 13 days, reverberating around the Middle East, would continue “until the political path can have a role in achieving the aspirations of the protesters” — an apparent reference to their goal of removing Mr. Mubarak.
Mr. Nassar said mediators had brokered the encounter with Mr. Suleiman, who Saturday received public backing from the Obama administration and other Western governments that confirmed him as the West’s choice to guide any transfer of power.
“The brothers decided to enter a round of dialogue to determine how serious the officials are achieving the demands of the people,” Mr. Nassar said. “The regime keeps saying we’re open to dialogue and the people are the ones refusing, so the Brotherhood decided to examine the situation from all different sides.”
“The Egyptian regime is stubborn, and cannot relinquish power easily,” he said. “In politics, you must hear everyone’s opinions.”
Another member of the Brotherhood, the former lawmaker Mohasen Rady, said the organization had not abandoned its demand for Mr. Mubarak’s ouster. “He can leave in any way the regime would accept him to leave, but it has to be that he is out,” he said.
Egypt Makes New Concessions to Opposition Groups
CAIRO -- Egypt's vice president met a wide representation of major opposition groups for the first time Sunday and agreed to allow freedom of the press, to release those detained since anti-government protests began nearly two weeks and ago and to lift the country's hated emergency laws when security permits.
Vice President Omar Suleiman endorsed a plan with the opposition to set up a committee of judiciary and political figures to study proposed constitutional amendments that would allow more candidates to run for president and impose term limits on the presidency, the state news agency reported. The committee was given until the first week of March to finish the tasks.
The regime also pledged not to harass those participating in the anti-government protests, which have drawn hundreds of thousands at the biggest rallies. The government also agreed not to hamper freedom of press and not to interfere with text messaging and Internet.
Sunday's meeting was the broadest representation of Egypt's fragmented opposition to meet with the new vice president since the protests demanding the immediate ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak began on Jan. 25.
The opposition groups represented included the youthful supporters of leading democracy advocate Mohamed ElBaradei, who are one of the main forces behind the protests.
The outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition group, and a number of smaller leftist, liberal groups also attended the meeting, according to footage shown on state television.
Mubarak, Egypt's ruler of nearly 30 years, has rejected calls to step down immediately and instead promised a package of unspecified political reforms -- part of a series of concessions the regime has made in an unsuccessful bid to quell the protests.
The two sides also agreed at the meeting that the government would open an office that would field complaints about political prisoners, according to the state news agency.
The government also pledged to commission judicial authorities to fight corruption and prosecute those behind it. It agreed to investigate and prosecute those responsible for the yet unexplained disappearance of police from Cairo's streets more than a week ago, which unleashed a wave of lawless looting and arson.
Egypt's emergency laws were imposed by Mubarak when he took office in 1981 and they have been in force ever since. The laws give police far-reaching powers for detention and suppression of civil and human rights. Lifting the laws has been a longtime demand by the opposition.