Egypt’s vice president has opened talks with the country’s largest opposition group, the Muslim Brotherhood, and other opposition factions to try resolve a near two-week-long popular uprising against the government.
Vice President Omar Suleiman met Sunday with Brotherhood representatives, secular opposition parties and independent political figures. Senior Brotherhood leader Mohammed Mursi told the Associated Press that the Islamist group in sticking to its demand for an end to President Hosni Mubarak’s 30 years in power.
The talks are the first known discussions in years between the Egyptian government and the Brotherhood, an outlawed group that provides social services to the country’s poor and whose members serve in parliament as independents.
Thousands of anti-government activists occupied Cairo’s Tahrir Square for a 13th day Sunday, vowing to remain until Mr. Mubarak quits, and defying government appeals to clear the area and return to work. Many protesters have said they fear the government will try to wear down their movement by enacting only superficial democratic reforms.
Mr. Mubarak has responded to the protests by pledging to step down after a presidential election due by September.
In another apparent gesture toward the protesters, members of the ruling National Democratic Party’s executive committee resigned Saturday, including Mr. Mubarak’s son, Gamal. But, the Egyptian president remains the party’s chief.
Egyptian state-run media say the party named Hossam Badrawi as its new secretary general, replacing Safwat el-Sharif. Badrawi is regarded by some Egyptians as a reformist.
Anti-Mubarak protesters in Tahrir Square rejected the NDP resignations as a meaningless gesture. But, a U.S. official called the resignations as “positive step” toward the political change Washington believes is necessary. The official said the United States also “looks forward to additional steps” by the Egyptian government.
The United Nations estimates more than 300 people have died and thousands have been wounded in Egypt since the anti-Mubarak protests began.