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Egypt protests: Muslim Brotherhood's concessions prompt anger

Egypt protests have sought Mubarak's removal. The Muslim Brotherhood suddenly dropped that demand in talks Sunday, angering participants in Egypt protests and causing an apparent split in the group's ranks.

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“The Muslim Brotherhood went with a key condition that cannot be abandoned ... [Mubarak] needs to step down in order to usher in a democratic phase," Brotherhood leader Abdel Moneim Aboul Futuh said on Al Jazeera. “If they were serious, the parliament would have been dissolved [and there would have been] a presidential decree ending the emergency law.”

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Key demand: Lifting of emergency laws

Egypt’s emergency laws have been in place since Mubarak took power in the wake of Anwar Sadat’s assassination in 1981. Ostensibly designed to deal with the militant Islamist movements behind Sadat’s murder, they have been used ever since to extra-judicially detain tens of thousands of people, from peaceful Brotherhood members to labor activists to human rights workers, and to override the orders of the Egyptian courts.

Unlike the more complex question of constitutional reform, the emergency laws could be ended with the stroke of a pen. The fact that they remain, the core democracy activists say, hints at Suleiman’s ultimate intent.

Suleiman, who taken the lead in dealing with the opposition as Mubarak is relegated to lame-duck status, currently presides over security forces that continue to arbitrarily detain and torture activists from all sides.

He acknowledged last night that Wael Ghonim, a Google executive and a major online organizer of the protests who’s been missing for almost two weeks, has been in government detention. He was reportedly released today and joined protesters in Tahrir Square, according to Twitter updates.

Suleiman's vague promises

In his statement last night, Suleiman said “the state of emergency will be lifted based on the security situation and an end to the threats to the security of society.” That has essentially been the government’s position for the past 30 years, with new and vaguely defined threats to “security” found each year to maintain the supposedly temporary laws.

Suleiman’s statement also included vague promises of constitutional reform to allow for fair elections, a “peaceful transition of authority,” and investigations into the killings of activists.

In his statement, which was written as if fully supported by all of the opposition figures he met with, Suleiman praised Egypt’s democracy protesters while also ominously sticking with the government’s line of recent days that the uprising has somehow been stirred up by outside powers.

He referred to “foreign intervention into purely Egyptian affairs and breaches of security by foreign elements working to undermine stability in implementation of their plots.”

State television has been filled with warnings that Iranian, Palestinian, and Israeli plotters are behind Egypt’s largely spontaneous uprising, a message that has gained traction among large segments of Egyptian society.

Egyptians say protests fomented by outside powers

Outside Tahrir Square, a suspicious member of state intelligence stopped two journalists as they left. As he flipped through all 400 pictures on one of their cameras, he gestured towards the thousands of Egyptians massed yards away. “Those people aren’t Egyptians. They’re with foreigners sent here to destroy our country for money. The real Egyptians hate them,” he says.

Many who originally supported the uprising have been swayed by what they’ve seen on TV, says a member of a community watch group that sprang up in Shubra, a sprawling, working-class Cairo neighborhood, and now appears to be melting away as police return to work.

“They think all foreigners are spies now, and that the protesters are being used to destabilize Egypt,” he says by phone. “I can’t guarantee your safety or mine if you come over here.”

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