CAIRO Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said on Monday he expected a referendum on the constitution now being drafted to take place in January, later than previously expected.
The referendum is an important milestone in a roadmap for political transition outlined by the interim administration installed by the army after it ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi on July 3. Parliamentary and presidential elections are expected once the constitution is completed.
"I believe that it (the referendum) will take place in the second half of January," Beblawi told reporters, giving no reason for the delay in a vote that politicians and diplomats had forecast for late December or early January.
The High Elections Commission that will oversee the referendum said Beblawi's time-frame was not official.
"The dates for the referendum are not decided except through the President and issuing of a resolution to invite voters," said the commission's spokesman Hisham Mokhtar. He said the referendum would take place over two days nationwide.
A committee of 50 members, few of whom are Islamists, began work in September on amending the constitution that was approved in a referendum last year after being drafted by an Islamist-dominated assembly.
The army had given the committee a 60-day deadline to complete the draft, which would then be put to a referendum.
Leaks of draft amendments of the new constitution show a desire to curb the influence of Islamic laws and ease rules banning officials from the Mubarak era to run for office.
(Reporting by Asma Alsharif; Editing by Alistair Lyon)