Advisers resign from body drafting Egypt constitution: agency

CAIRO Sat Nov 17, 2012 3:44pm EST

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CAIRO (Reuters) - A group of technical advisers helping to write Egypt's new constitution resigned on Saturday, saying they would draw up a draft of their own because their voices were not being heard, state news agency MENA said.

The resignations further complicate a drafting process delayed by bickering among Islamists and liberals, raising doubts whether the document would be ready by a December 12 deadline.

The constitution, to be voted upon in a referendum, is a cornerstone of Egypt's democratic transition after the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year.

Without it, the country cannot hold elections to replace a parliament declared void by a court in June. The dissolved parliament was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood of President Mohamed Mursi, who is the first elected president of the Arab world's most populous state.

The 100-member constituent assembly drafting the constitution appointed the advisers several weeks ago to provide technical assistance.

Representatives of three Christian churches have also said they were withdrawing their five members from the assembly, and on Wednesday former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, a liberal, said he and other members had suspended their participation.

The advisers said they wanted "a complete draft that is appropriate for Egypt and achieves the goals of the revolution of freedom and social justice," but that their advice was being ignored and they had become superfluous, MENA reported.

The assembly's chairman, Hossam El Gheriany, said he regretted the advisers' withrawal, but their complaints were unjustified and all of their recommendations had been distributed to the assembly's members, MENA reported.

Drafts of the constitution drawn up by the assembly so far indicate it will have more Islamic references than the previous constitution, worrying more liberal-minded Egyptians and Christians, who make up about a tenth of the nation of 83 million. They fear the imposition of social restrictions.

An important article stating that "the principles of sharia" are the main source of legislation has until now remained unchanged from the old constitution. But a new article seeks to spell out what those principles are.

Sharia is Islamic religious law.

Monsef Soliman, one of three representatives of the Coptic Orthodox Church in the assembly, said the decision to withdraw was taken on Thursday. Representatives of the Catholic and Anglican churches have also withdrawn, Soliman said.

Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa said on Wednesday that a small group with its own agenda within the assembly was pushing articles through without proper discussion, and that he and others would decide on Sunday if they would resign from the body entirely.

The technical advisers said most of their recommendations were unrelated to the articles on sharia, but rather those dealing with the balance of power and other issues.

President Mursi will not attend the installation ceremony of the new Coptic pope, Tawardros II, on Sunday, the church said on Friday, to the dismay of Christians who fear being sidelined in the new Islamist-led Egypt.

(Writing by Patrick Werr; editing by Jason Webb)

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