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Egyptian president moves into Mubarak's old office

By Sarah El Deeb

Associated Press

Published: Monday, June 25 2012 9:00 a.m. MDT

Closed-door meetings between Brotherhood members and the ruling generals as well as mediation from different groups, including pro-reform leader Mohammed ElBaradei, aimed at easing the crisis and defusing a political stalemate.

Brotherhood members said the election results, delayed for four days, were held up by authorities as a bargaining chip to reassure the generals in the face of mounting Brotherhood opposition to the military's tightening grip and the group's rise to power.

Former presidents were sworn in by parliament. But with the parliament dissolved, it was not clear where Morsi will be sworn in. Authorities say he could be sworn before the country's highest court, but his supporters are pressing for parliament to be reinstated, arguing that the court decision only disputed a third of the house's seats.

Abdel-Ghaffour said discussions with the generals centered on the Brotherhood's argument that only the disputed third of parliament be dissolved because it was that portion that was elected based on articles deemed unconstitutional. Independent and party members competed for a third of the 498-seat house, which the court said violated rules of equality between candidates.

Brotherhood lawyers say another court, Egypt's highest administrative court, is likely to back their claim.

"This is likely to happen," said Abdel-Ghaffour, whose Islamist party won 25 percent of the dissolved parliament seats in addition to the Brotherhood's nearly 50 percent. "A third of parliament can be dissolved and re-elected in 75 days."

The speaker of the dissolved parliament met with the No. 2 general on the military council, Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Anan, twice since the court decision on June 14.

Abdel-Ghaffour also said talks centered on reassurances the generals were seeking regarding the Brotherhood's control of the new government, including demands that Morsi appoint a prime minister who is a technocrat from outside the Brotherhood.

The stickier issue of drafting the constitution was also raised as well as fears over who controls the key foreign and defense ministries. The generals' new declaration ensures the military appoint the defense minister and control all issues regarding military personnel.

Before parliament was dissolved, a panel appointed by the legislature was supposed to be in charge of drafting the new constitution which would determine the role of Islam in legislation, Egypt's future political system and the role of the military.

In the recent power grab, the ruling generals gave themselves, the prime minister, judges or a fifth of the panel members the right to veto details of the constitution that will be drafted, curbing the powers of Islamists to control the process. The parliament-formed panel is expected to meet Tuesday, and Abdel-Ghaffour said it is expected to continue its work.

"Both sides want reassurances," Abdel-Ghaffour said. "But there is a will for the caravan to keep moving," he said, using an Arabic expression.

In his first speech after being named president, Morsi called for national unity and pledged he will be a "president for all Egyptians." In an effort to heal national divisions, he vowed to appoint diverse deputies including a woman and a Christian. He also has reached out to other presidential hopefuls who got significant support in the first round of elections.

His spokesman Ali said Morsi wants to form a national coalition government that will bring in technocrats and representatives of a broad variety of political factions. But that is likely to take time, Ali said.

Thousands of Morsi supporters, backed by some liberal and secular youth groups who drove the uprising, vowed to press on with their protest in Tahrir Square to pressure the ruling generals to rescind their decrees and reinstate parliament. Tens of thousands spent the night in Tahrir in joyous celebration of Morsi's win. But by morning, the crowds had thinned considerably.

But Brotherhood officials said the protests will continue until the military responds to their demands.

The military-backed government, headed by Kamal el-Ganzouri, resigned Monday, according to legal tradition. The military council asked it to stay as a caretaker government, state TV said.

Morsi faces enormous challenges of improving the economy and maintaining law and order — both of which deteriorated in the post-Mubarak period. His victory is a stunning achievement for the Muslim Brotherhood, a shadowy organization repressed by successive regimes.

He is Egypt's first civilian president — his four predecessors all came from the ranks of the military.

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