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EGYPT: Negotiations underway; regime leaders confident

February 5, 2011 |  8:13 am

Layingdown Talks between newly appointed Vice President Omar Suleiman and a few opposition groups started Saturday, CNN reported, and members of President Hosni Mubarak's new Cabinet appeared confident they will succeed.

Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq said Saturday that stability was returning to the country and he seemed confident that a deal on reforms can be reached with the country's multiple opposition movements.

At a press conference aired on state television, Shafiq said the government hopes to convince enough factions to enter talks that others will be forced to join in.

Asked whether the Muslim Brotherhood, a powerful opposition group, will enter talks, Shafiq said, “Once they find the others are negotiating, for sure they will or they will be left alone.... The level of aspirations is going down day by day.”

He noted that the protesters had changed their slogan from “day of departure” Friday to a “week of steadfastness," saying that this was “because they failed on Friday” in forcing out Mubarak. “All this leads to stability,” he said.

At a news conference Saturday, Interior Ministry spokesman Ismail Othman said, "The army remains neutral and is not taking sides because if we protect one side we will be perceived as biased.... Our role is to prevent clashes and chaos as we separate the opposing groups."

Opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei was in Cairo's Tahrir Square late Saturday morning and was expected to speak, CNN reported.

Photo: Opposition demonstrators confront soldiers near Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Saturday. Egypt's President Hosni Mubarak, who has reshuffled his government but refused to step down, met some of the new ministers Saturday, ignoring hundreds of thousands of protesters who have demanded that the 82-year-old leader step down. Credit: Suhaib Salem/Reuters