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Muslim Brotherhood clashing with Egypt's military rulers

CAIRO — Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood has launched an all-out verbal assault on the country's military rulers in what many here fear could become a confrontation that would threaten the course of the country's political reforms, including the dissolution of its newly minted Parliament.

The Brotherhood, which has emerged as Egypt's pre-eminent political group in the year since former President Hosni Mubarak was toppled from power, opened the attack Saturday with a posting on its website that blamed the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces for the nation's deteriorating condition and accused the council of hindering revolutionary efforts.

The statement voiced particular anger at the council for saying that it wouldn't recognize efforts by the Brotherhood-dominated Parliament to remove the council-appointed government of Prime Minister Kamal el Ganzouri. The Brotherhood accused the generals of "granting immunity to a failed government against a no-confidence vote by the Parliament."

"Is this an attempt to abort the revolution, or is it an intention to defraud the upcoming presidential elections?" the statement asked.

Among the government's failures, the Brotherhood said, was allowing Americans working for civil society organizations to leave the country even though they'd been charged with a crime, and not retrieving stolen government money stored in foreign banks.

The Brotherhood's political arm, the Freedom and Justice Party, threatened to "mobilize millions in protests to overthrow the government."

The council's head, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, denounced the Brotherhood hours later in a statement read on state television.

"Questioning the intentions and integrity of the coming presidential elections is nothing but defamation that tends to forget that the armed forces planned and executed the parliamentary elections with all transparency and fairness," Tantawi's statement said.

The confrontation between Egypt's military rulers and the Brotherhood is developing as it becomes clear that the Brotherhood is by far the dominant political force in Egypt.

In addition to controlling 47 percent of the Parliament's seats, it and the conservative Nour party hold 65 percent of the seats on the newly formed commission that's to draft a new constitution.

Just two weeks ago, the Brotherhood said it was considering nominating a candidate for the nation's presidency, something it had said previously that it wouldn't do. If it does name a candidate for the May 23 vote, few here would bet against its nominee.

"The honeymoon between the Muslim Brotherhood and the military rulers has come to an end, especially after the Brotherhood showed its real intention of taking full control of the Parliament, the constitution and the presidency, if they can," said Emad Gad, a Coptic Christian member of Parliament. Gad, a member of the constitutional commission, has said he'll boycott its work because of the Islamist dominance.

"After praising each other for months," Gad said, referring to the Brotherhood and the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, "we are witnessing their public clashes because they both want individual control, not a democracy."

Several Egyptian politicians said dissolution of Parliament was one possible outcome of the clash, with the military seeking such a move through the courts.

With both sides threatening to summon millions of supporters to the streets, there's a possibility of a dangerous escalation, said Mohamed Farahat, a specialist in Islamist movements at the Ahram Center for Political and Strategic Studies.

He said the two sides probably would hold "a behind-the-scenes dialogue and resolve their differences or gear up and confront each other."

He said a court filing by political figures seeking the dissolution of the Parliament was particularly threatening, because the country's most powerful judges felt insulted by the Brotherhood's statement, which accused them of doing the military's bidding.

An angry verdict could dissolve the Parliament in a matter of days, he said.

"If the Parliament is dissolved," Farahat said, "we will be back to what we demanded months ago: a president, a Parliament and then a constitution."

(Sabry is a McClatchy special correspondent.)


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