U.S. plays down Islamist role in drafting Egypt charter / Two liberal politicians quit panel in protest (WASHINGTON TIMES) By Guy Taylor 03/27/12)
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The State Department downplayed concerns Monday that Islamists are
dominating the drafting of Egypt’s new constitution, despite
criticism and outrage voiced by secular and Christian politicians in
“We’re not going to prejudge, obviously, the work of this panel,”
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said, referring the 100-
person body elected over the weekend by a post-revolution parliament
to write the constitution.
Two liberal Egyptian politicians quit the panel Monday, citing
concerns that it is being dominated by Islamists and lacks sufficient
representation for women and Christians.
About 70 percent of the panel comprises independent Islamists or
members of Islamist parties including the Muslim Brootherhood.
Ms. Nuland told reporters in Washington that the constitutional panel
represents “one of the next steps in the Egyptian transition
process,” and noted that the new constitution will still “have to be
put to referendum before the Egyptian people.”
Asked whether U.S. officials are concerned the panel is dominated by
Islamists, Ms. Nuland said: “We’re not going to judge these groups by
their names [or] their history. We’re going to judge them by what
they do, we’re going to judge them by the output.”
She added: “This panel is from the elected parliament, so having been
elected democratically, it’s now their obligation to uphold and
defend and protect the democratic rights that brought them to power
in the first place.
“That’s the standard that we’ll hold them to,” she said.
U.S.-Egypt relations were frayed earlier this year when Cairo’s
military rulers cracked down on American nonprofit groups that
promote democracy abroad. Egyptian authorities raided their offices,
arrested several workers and charged them with fomenting chaos.
The workers were permitted to leave the nation this month, but many
still face criminal charges in Egyptian courts. The issue has
prompted a bipartisan group of congressional leaders to call for an
end to U.S. aid to Egypt.
Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, however, notified Congress
on Friday of her intention to waive certain democracy requirements so
that $1.3 billion in U.S. aid could flow to Egypt.
Noting Cairo’s commitment to the Israeli-Egypt peace treaty, the
State Department also is moving to free up $200 million in economic
aid during the post-revolution transition.
Meanwhile in Egypt, the ruling military issued a veiled threat of a
crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood if the group persists in demands
to form a new government, the Associated Press reported.
The warning points to a growing possibility of confrontation between
the Muslim Brotherhood and the military, which emerged as Egypt’s two
most powerful institutions since the fall of longtime authoritarian
ruler Hosni Mubarak a year ago. (© 2012 The Washington Times, LLC.
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