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Egyptian parliament suspends sessions in protest over cabinet

By Ernesto Londoño,

CAIRO — Egyptian lawmakers announced Sunday that they would suspend parliament sessions for a week to protest the military rulers’ failure to allow the elected body to appoint a new civilian cabinet.

The step marked an escalation of tension between the Islamist-dominated parliament and the governing Supreme Council of the Armed Forces as Egypt’s landmark presidential election nears.

The disagreement is part of a broader fight to define the country’s new power structure after decades of authoritarian rule that ended with a popular uprising last year that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Besides gearing up for the May 23-24 presidential vote, Egyptian leaders are wrangling over the drafting of a new constitution.

At stake as the fight drags on are a flurry of urgent policy decisions that have been put on hold, including the negotiation of a loan from the International Monetary Fund to supplement Egypt’s fast-dwindling foreign reserves.

Mohamed Saad Katatny, the speaker of parliament, said after the decision was announced that the ruling generals were contemplating a cabinet reshuffle in response to concerns raised by lawmakers in recent months, according to the state-run news agency. Katatny, a member of the Muslim Brotherhood, is among those lawmakers who want a more influential role for Islamist parties in the cabinet right away.

An unnamed senior official was quoted Sunday on the Web site of the state-run newspaper al-Ahram as saying that the cabinet shake-up would be “limited.”

A version of the bureaucratic infighting is playing out in the streets. On Saturday night, protesters outside the Defense Ministry clashed for hours with people supporting the military, according to witnesses. More than 150 people were wounded and at least one person was killed in the confrontation, the Health Ministry said Sunday.

Special correspondent Ingy Hassieb contributed to this report.

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