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Mohammad Al Baradei sets conditions for Egypt talks

Calls for appointment of neutral and credible government

Gulf News

Cairo: Senior opposition figure Mohammad Al Baradei set three conditions on Monday for ending a boycott of Egypt’s elected Islamist president and working for a national consensus.

The former head of the UN nuclear watchdog called for the appointment of a “neutral and credible” government capable of managing the country, an independent prosecutor-general and a panel to draft a new elections law.

Speaking at an economic conference organised by the leftist Popular Current party, Al Baradei said the opposition was prepared to work with President Mohammad Mursi for Egypt’s sake.

“We are waiting for President Mursi to understand that time is not on his side, not on Egypt’s side,” he said. “We will begin a dialogue if three conditions are met.”

Al Baradei is a senior member of the National Salvation Front, a loose umbrella grouping of liberal and leftist parties which threatened to boycott parliamentary elections due to have been held this month, but which were postponed until the autumn after a court annulled the government’s election law last month.

That delay created a window of opportunity for cooperation between Mursi and his Muslim Brotherhood allies and their opponents, but deep mutual suspicion and spasms of political violence have made such a dialogue less likely.

The European Union’s foreign policy chief, Catherine Ashton, held separate talks with Mursi and opposition leaders on Sunday to encourage them to seek common ground to tackle the country’s daunting economic and social challenges.

The opposition has dropped two other prior conditions for cooperation it set in February — amendments to the Islamic-tinged constitution pushed through last December and the punishment of members of the security forces involved in abuses.

US Secretary of State John Kerry also urged Mursi last week to reach out to the opposition to build a more inclusive democracy and fix Egypt’s battered economy.

Cairo is negotiating with a visiting International Monetary Fund delegation for a $4.8 billion loan urgently needed to help stem a growing economic crisis.

Although there are no political conditions for an deal, Western governments that are the global lenders’ biggest shareholders say some political consensus would make it easier to push through economic reforms that go with an IMF loan.

Diplomats said Mursi had not ruled out addressing some of the opposition’s demands and could make a decision in the next two weeks as the IMF negotiations reach a conclusion.