Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood wants government sacked

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By SARAH EL DEEB, Associated Press

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood called Thursday on the ruling generals to sack the military-appointed government, saying it has failed to manage the deteriorating security and economic situation in the country.

The Islamic fundamentalist Brotherhood controls nearly 50 percent of the seats in the new parliament, by far the single largest bloc to emerge from Egypt's freest and fairest elections in decades. Brotherhood spokesman Mahmoud Ghozlan said the military should appoint a Brotherhood representative as prime minister, who would then form a new government.

The calls for sacking the Cabinet, headed by Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, come after deadly soccer riot that sparked days of clashes between protesters and the police. At least 74 were killed in the riot on Feb. 1 and at least 15 more died in the clashes that followed.

"We call on the military council to sack this government that has failed to handle this big event and to form another government," said Ghozlan. "If there is a government in place that is really backed by the choice of the people, it will act without regard for any pressure from anyone. It will seek to reassure the people and provide it with security," he added.

There have been periodic bursts of protests and deadly clashes since the uprising that ousted Hosni Mubarak a year ago. There has also been a wave of crime, notably a spate of bank heists, over the past few weeks.

Military troops deployed around the country starting Wednesday in an attempt to restore some security, and as state media said, "restore the state's prestige." Mobile patrols roved main roads and squares, and other troops guarded government ministries, banks and other public buildings.

Many blame police for the failure to stop the deadly riots and criticize the police for excessive use of force to break up ensuing protests. The deadly week renewed accusations that the ruling military council had mismanaged what was supposed to be a transition to democracy and revived calls for the generals to step down.

The security surge comes just days before a general strike starting Feb. 11 — the one year anniversary of Mubarak's ouster — to demand the quick transfer to civilian rule. The call has gained traction, and was widely criticized by the military and the Brotherhood as an attempt to destabilize the country.

Adding to the precarious security situation, tribesmen briefly kidnapped 18 Egyptian border guards along the frontier with Israel in the Sinai Peninsula before releasing them. Security officials said the Bedouin tribesmen snatched the guards from positions along the border to protest the killing of one of their members, a smuggler, as he tried to sneak into Israel days ago.

After holding negotiations with tribal leaders, the kidnappers freed the guards, one of the security officials said.

The Brotherhood calls for forming a new government appear to be partially in response to growing dissent.

Essam el-Erian, a leading Brotherhood lawmaker, said negotiations to form such a government have not begun yet, and could only happen with the approval of the military council.

"We are a considerable bloc that can create an agreement over such a government," he said. "The country needs an effective government."

Military generals had previously said they would not be opposed to a government formed by the parliament majority. The legislature's primary task remains selecting the 100-member constituent assembly which will be entrusted with writing the country's new constitution.

Many among Egypt's liberal and secular revolutionary groups have grown critical of the Brotherhood, accusing it of attempting to monopolize the political scene and of working closely with the ruling generals. The youth-dominated groups fear the Brotherhood may strike a deal with the military council — giving the military a future say in politics to ensure the Brotherhood's hold on authority and influence the writing of a new constitution.

The deputy chairman of the Muslim Brotherhood, Khairat el-Shater, told the Arabic TV network Al-Jazeera that a wide-based coalition government should reflect the sizes of the respective political groups in parliament, but also include technocrats and public figures.

He said he expected it to be led by a member of the Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice party.

"We will not monopolize the government," el-Shater told Al-Jazeera late Wednesday.

Emad Gad, a lawmaker from the liberal Egyptian Democratic Socialist Party, which has 25 seats in the parliament, said his party won't join a coalition government but will remain in the opposition bloc.

"Didn't they win the majority? Let them manage the country and put up with the responsibility," Gad said.

The domestic tension comes amid a growing rift between Egyptian rulers and the country's longtime strategic ally, the U.S. Egyptian officials have cracked down on foreign nonprofit pro-democracy groups, including four American organizations, accusing them of using foreign funds to foment protests in the country.

Judges referred 16 Americans and 27 others, including Europeans and Egyptians, to trial on these charges, in an escalation that threatens to rock Cairo's once-solid relations with Washington.

Just days before a general strike called by protesters goes into effect, another U.S.-affiliated institution, the American University in Cairo, came under scrutiny and accusation by the military rulers as an instigator of unrest.

A Facebook page affiliated with the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces hinted that the university, operating in Egypt since 1919, was the latest tool of the U.S. administration and its security agencies to weaken Egypt. The site is not the official page of the council, but often reflects its views.

AUC students had announced they will be taking part in the rolling general strike starting Saturday. The Facebook page said university students are campaigning for the strike, implementing a foreign plot with Egyptian hands. Most of the university students are upper class Egyptians.

"Is the American University in Cairo one of the tools of the U.S. administration and its different security agencies to work inside the country and take part in the plot to topple Egypt and occupy it by 2015," the statement said.

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Associated Press Writer Ben Hubbard and Ashraf Sweilam in el-Arish contributed to this report.

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