National Salvation Front, opposition parties mull dialogue invitation

National Salvation Front, opposition parties mull dialogue invitation

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Mon, 28/01/2013 - 12:59

Egypt's leading opposition coalition is meeting today to discuss President Mohamed Morsy's invitation for a national dialogue with opposition groups as violent protests rattle the country.

The National Salvation Front will meet at the Wafd Party headquarters to decide how it will respond to Morsy's call, made during a televised address to the nation late Sunday.

The call for national dialogue came amid violent clashes that have gripped the country and left over 31 dead. Protests against the Muslim Brotherhood during demonstrations commemorating the 25 January uprising turned violent in Suez, and a judge's decision sentencing 21 defendants in the Port Said football violence case to death has led to unrest in Port Said.

Morsy made the call during a televised speech, in which he also announced a curfew in Suez, Ismailia and Port Said. Front leaders Mohamed ElBaradei, Hamdeen Sabbahi and Amr Moussa were named in the invitation, as well as other leaders of both secular and Islamist parties.

However, initial statements suggest mixed reactions to the invitation. In a statement on Twitter, ElBaradei called the dialogue invitation a waste of time, slamming the government for failing to admit responsibility for the recent violence and for not forming a new consensus-based government and Constituent Assembly.

On the other hand, Wasat Party spokesperson Tariq al-Malt described Morsy's speech as "proper," saying that it was appropriate in terms of its content and language.

“It seems that the institution of the presidency has started to work professionally," he said.

Meanwhile, Sabbahi's Popular Current has rejected a dialogue with the president and renewed calls for peaceful protests, stressing that violence and attacks on properties are against the principles of the 25 January revolution.

In a statement early Monday, the group condemned the "excessive violence by the police, which led to new martyrs." The group added that its battle was not with police, but against policies that "fail to achieve the goals of the revolution and meet Egyptians' legitimate aspirations for  freedom and social justice."

The party also criticized the curfew and state of emergency imposed on Port Said, Suez and Ismailia, calling the measures "collective punishment" that threatened the unity of the nation.

The Freedom Egypt Party criticized the speech. "We hoped that the president’s priority was trying to heal the rift, and addressing the real roots of the crisis," the party said in a statement Monday, adding that the president was instead "threatening" the country with "more extraordinary measures."

"The current crisis, going on since Thursday, stems mainly from the deep political conflict and the mistrust between the various parties," the group added.

The party also criticized the president for not starting an investigation into security forces' conduct over the past few days, which it said led to the loss of lives.

The Strong Egypt Party announced that it will meet on Monday morning to decide whether or not to participate in the dialogue.

Party spokesperson Mohamed al-Mohandes told Al Jazeera Mubasher Misr that Strong Egypt will not coordinate with the National Salvation Front on the dialogue, adding that it did not normally coordinate with the front on any other issue.