Egypt's Top Opposition Party Abandons Talks With Mubarak Regime

Tagammu becomes first party to announce withdrawal from negotiations; Muslim Brotherhood has criticized the talks, but expressed no intention about eschewing talks.

The largest opposition group in Egypt's parliament pulled out of talks on reform with the government on Thursday, saying President Hosni Mubarak's administration had not responded "to the minimum level of popular demands".

The Tagammu Party was the first group to announce its withdrawal from a dialogue which Vice-President Omar Suleiman began on Sunday to try to quell anger fuelling mass protests.

Demonstrators have dismissed the dialogue as irrelevant to their demands for Mubarak to end his 30 years in power now as a first step toward deep political reform.

The banned Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, the most influential and organized opposition group, said on Wednesday the talks had yet to tackle the issues that triggered the protests sweeping Egypt for more than two weeks.

But the Brotherhood, a formally banned opposition movement, has stopped short of abandoning the talks, despite its stated misgivings about the government's intentions.

So far there has only been one dialogue session and no date has been set for another one. Legal opposition parties such as Tagammu and Wafd had taken part, along with independent figures such as business tycoon Naguib Sawiris.

Explaining its decision in a statement, Tagammu criticized the government's handling of the dialogue, saying official announcements on what had been agreed were inaccurate.

"Unacceptable statements" by officials had put participants "in confrontation with the popular revolution", it added.

After the first session, some of the opposition parties said the atmosphere had been positive, though the administration had not made any concessions that would satisfy the protesters.

Egypt protest - AP - 8.2.2011

Two opposition groups said participants had not signed a statement released after the meeting, which said they had agreed on measures including the establishment of a committee to study constitutional reform.

Mubarak, in a statement read by Suleiman on Tuesday, welcomed what he has called "the national dialogue".

Opposition figure Mohamed ElBaradei, who was not invited, has said the talks lack credibility and were being run by the same people who controlled Egypt for the past three decades.