Egypt's army says ends deadlock on assembly

CAIRO Thu Jun 7, 2012 4:07pm EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's ruling army council called on Thursday for parliament to meet next week to pick members of an assembly tasked with drawing up a new constitution, signaling the end of a weeks-long deadlock.

The previous assembly was dissolved by court order after liberals and others quit the body complaining it was dominated by Islamists.

The military council that took over after former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled last year has promised to hand over to a newly elected president by July 1, but no one knows what constitutional authority the next head of state will have.

A new president will be elected in a run-off on June 16-17 in a polarizing vote that pits Mubarak's last premier and former air force commander Ahmed Shafik against the Muslim Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Mursi.

The military council had on Tuesday given political parties a 48-hour deadline to agree on the make-up of a new assembly or said they would amend the interim constitution drafted after Mubarak was ousted - though it was unclear what that would mean.

General Mamdouh Shahin said after a meeting lasting more than seven hours on Thursday between 22 parties and the council, that elected members of the upper and lower houses of parliament would meet next Tuesday to elect new assembly members.

It was not immediately clear what they had decided on the make-up the 100-strong assembly.

Earlier in the day, parties indicated it would be made of 39 members of political parties and 61 public figures including union members, lawyers, judges and religious leaders.

The Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), which has the biggest bloc in parliament, was accused by its secular rivals of staffing the constitutional assembly with its own members. That assembly was suspended in April.

The FJP said in a statement before the meeting that in a gathering at secular party al-Wafd's headquarters, the groups had agreed on the criteria for the new assembly.

"The party hopes that this agreement will be the start of the constituent assembly's work to write a constitution that reflects the hopes and the ambitions of the Egyptian people," the party said in an emailed statement.

It added that articles of the constitution would be approved in the new assembly by a 67 percent majority or if that was not possible by a 57 percent majority 48 hours later.

(Reporting by Marwa Awad; Writing by Dina Zayed; Editing by Michael Roddy and Pravin Char)

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