Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood announced it will enter talks with Vice President Omar Suleiman about "the process of [President Hosni] Mubarak leaving office, the right to protest in public places and guarantees for their safety," an MB spokesman told Reuters. The negotiations are the first ever between the officially banned group and the government, reviving concerns about Islamist participation in the transitional and future governments.
"We have decided to engage in a round of dialogue to ascertain the seriousness of officials towards the demands of the people and their willingness to respond to them," a spokesman for the group told Reuters. The MB also said the move was intended to forestall any "foreign or regional interference in our affairs."
The Muslim Brotherhood is broadcasting a mixed message about negotiation and participation in a new government. MB leader Mohamed Badie "assert[ed] that the MB do not seek power and have no intention in its agenda in nominating any of its members for presidency or being part of the interim government," in a recent statement. However, a 2007 program by the group talked of a general Islamization of Egyptian society, with a determination made that women and Coptic Christians could not rise to become Egypt's head of state.
The move also comes at a time of crisis for Mubarak's ruling party, the NDP. Gamal Mubarak, the president's son, resigned from his position, as did other key figures including the NDP's secretary general. Assuming both the younger Mubarak's position and the secretary generalship, was Hossam Badrawi, a relative moderate who called for constitutional amendments to ease the way for candidates in presidential elections.
It is unclear if negotiations will succeed in ending the crisis, as key opposition figures missed a meeting with Vice President Omar Suleiman on Saturday. "The major players still haven't shown up," an unnamed US official said, according to the Los Angeles Times. "But they need to test the government's willingness to make major change.... The onus is on the opposition."