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Last Updated: Tuesday, 14 February 2006, 18:53 GMT
US slams Egypt local poll delay
Poster of Hosni Mubarak
President Mubarak has vowed to open up Egypt's political system
The US has criticised the Egyptian government's decision to postpone local council elections for two years, and will raise the matter with Cairo.

Egypt's upper house of parliament approved the legislation on Sunday and it will soon be put to the lower house.

Independents who want to stand for president will also need the backing of local councillors in order to qualify.

Opposition groups say this will prolong the ruling National Democratic Party's monopoly over presidential nominations.

But Safwat al-Sherif, the NDP's secretary-general, said the postponement was needed to draft a new law governing municipal administration.

Conversations

Speaking to reporters in Washington, US state department spokesman Sean McCormack criticised the Egyptian Shura Council's approval of President Hosni Mubarak's decree to extend by two years the terms of 4,500 local councillors.

As a matter of principle we do not favour postponing elections
Sean McCormack

The terms of the councillors were to have expired on Tuesday, and elections to replace them were due within 60 days.

"As a matter of principle we do not favour postponing elections," Mr McCormack said.

"It is something that we are going to be discussing with the Egyptian government. I expect we'll do it through conversations here, probably as well as in Cairo."

Change and reform

On Monday, a senior member of the opposition Muslim Brotherhood told the BBC Arabic Service that MPs allied to his group would vote against the legislation in the People's Assembly.

"Our position is in accordance with our general strategy, and therefore, the Muslim Brotherhood members of parliament will reject this new decision by law and they will vote against it after studying it thoroughly," Isam al-Aryan said.

"We are ready for the local elections as they were scheduled."

Mr Aryan also said there was a strong public desire for change and reform.

"People's aspirations should not be let down by the postponement for two years and corruption in the local councils should not continue as it is," he said.

Muslim Brotherhood candidates standing as independents made spectacular gains in the December's parliamentary elections, although the Islamist group is officially banned in Egypt.




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