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Last Updated: Sunday, 27 March, 2005, 16:28 GMT 17:28 UK
Riot police halt Egypt opposition
By Heba Saleh
BBC News, Cairo

Riot police confront Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators in Cairo
The Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed in Egypt
The Egyptian authorities have deployed thousands of riot police in central Cairo to prevent Muslim Brotherhood demonstrators reaching parliament.

Brotherhood sources say at least six of their members were arrested as they tried to reach the building.

On Saturday, the authorities had arrested about 50 members of the group in different provinces of the country.

The Muslim Brotherhood, although banned, is considered Egypt's largest and most organised opposition force.

Police in full riot gear blocked off whole streets in the city centre to prevent access to parliament.

But hundreds of demonstrators appear to have managed to hold small protests in locations outside the city centre.

Assertive stance

The Muslim Brotherhood had called for the demonstration in support of its demands for political reforms ahead of this year's presidential election.

It wants the government to lift the emergency law and to abolish all restrictions which prevent political activity.

Like other Egyptian political forces, the Muslim Brotherhood fears the government plans to impose conditions that would make it impossible for credible candidates to challenge President Hosni Mubarak.

He has recently introduced a constitutional amendment that would allow the country to hold contested presidential elections for the first time.

The Brotherhood usually avoids confrontations with the state and concentrates instead on expanding its influence in society.

But this is an election year and the movement says it is time to adopt a more assertive stance.



SEE ALSO:
Country profile: Egypt
15 Jan 05 |  Country profiles
Egypt opposition leader charged
22 Mar 05 |  Middle East
Jailed Nour tests Egypt's democracy
08 Mar 05 |  Middle East
Cairo anti-Mubarak rallies grow
21 Feb 05 |  Middle East
Egypt swoops on Muslim opposition
16 May 04 |  Middle East


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