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Egypt Army Says It Has ‘No Opinion’ on Draft Constitution

Egypt’s ruling military council said it would have “no opinion” regarding the members of the committee charged with drafting a new constitution and will respect the results of parliamentary elections.

Council member Major General Mamdouh Shahin said the only body authorized to form the committee is parliament and its elected members. Shahin’s comments were posted yesterday on the website of the Egypt State Information Service.

Shahin’s comments come after the Associated Press cited a member of the council as saying that parliament won’t be representative enough to oversee the drafting of a constitution and that the army would appoint a group to check the influence of religious extremists on the process.

The military council has been facing renewed pressure to accelerate the transition to civilian rule after opposition groups said it hadn’t relinquished enough authority following President Hosni Mubarak’s ouster in February.

A civilian council that is to advise the military on issues during the transition named a former information minister, Mansour Hassan, as its president, Sameh Ashour, one of two deputy heads also named today, said in a telephone interview.

The military council swore in a new cabinet last week and gave Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri presidential powers, excluding oversight of the military and judiciary. The army has said it will remain the ultimate authority in Egypt until a president is elected next year.

Road Map

Shahin also reiterated the military council’s commitment to the road map it drew up for the transition period ending June 30.

The Arab world’s most-populous country is in the early stages of elections that may give Islamist groups the largest share of seats in parliament in January.

The government that emerges in the coming months must tackle an economy that grew at the slowest pace in at least a decade as a result of the unrest that forced Mubarak out in February and deterred tourism and investment. Gross domestic product expanded 1.8 percent in the fiscal year through June, and Egypt has spent almost half its foreign currency reserves in the past 11 months.

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