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Morsi attends Egypt dialogue snubbed by opposition

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi took part on Tuesday in a national dialogue that he had called for all parties to attend ahead of elections, but which was shunned by the main opposition coalition.

Morsi said the round of dialogue was aimed at "ensuring that these elections will be carried out with the highest degree of transparency and impartiality," in remarks broadcast live on state television.

His statement came soon after the opposition National Salvation Front announced it was boycotting the staggered legislative elections starting on April 22 due to a lack of guarantees of transparency.

The NSF accused Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of wanting to "dominate all the state organs" and reiterated its demand for the formation of a government of national salvation.

Morsi told the opening session that the dialogue was "still open" to all of those who were absent on Tuesday.

Christian communities -- Copts, Roman Catholics and Protestants -- had also said they would not take part, and asked Morsi to discuss their dispute over the divisive constitution that he pushed through, MENA news agency reported.

Among those who did attend were Saad al-Katatni, head of the Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, and Yunes Makhyun, chief of the main Salafist party Al-Nour.

Katatni ruled out the formation of a new cabinet before the elections, arguing that a "change of government now would send a negative signal" with the country in the grips of a severe economic and political crisis.

Makhyun, whose party has tried to mediate between the government and the NSF, called for the formation of "an impartial government accepted by all political parties."

One politician, Ramy Lakah, called for the elections to be postponed for six months until "the country is calm".

Initially the legislative elections had been set to begin on April 27, with a new parliament to convene on July 6.

But the dates conflicted with the period running up to and including Coptic Easter, prompting Morsi to announce new ones "in response to requests by Christian brothers," a reference to the Coptic Church, his office said Saturday.

The Brotherhood and Islamist allies dominated the last parliamentary election in 2011. The Islamist-majority house that resulted was annulled by a court on a technicality before Morsi's election last June.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130226/morsi-attends-egypt-dialogue-snubbed-opposition