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Party, but no candidate for Brotherhood

CAIRO - The long-banned Muslim Brotherhood said yesterday it will form a political party once democracy is established in Egypt but promised not to field a candidate for president, trying to allay fears at home and abroad that it seeks power.

Still, the fundamentalist movement is poised to be a significant player in the new order.

Egypt's new military rulers gave a strong sign they recognize that the brotherhood, which calls for the creation of an Islamic state in the Arab world's most populous nation, can no longer be barred from politics after the mass uprising that forced out President Hosni Mubarak.

The Armed Forces Supreme Council included a former brotherhood lawmaker on an eight-member panel tasked with amending the constitution enough to allow democratic elections later this year.

The panel comprises legal experts of various ideologies, including secular liberal scholars and three judges from the current Supreme Constitutional Court, one of them a Christian, Maher Sami Youssef. The changes aim to open the field for political parties to form, loosen restrictions on who can run for president and write in guarantees to prevent the rampant election rigging that ensured Mubarak's ruling party a lock on power.

The panel's head is Tareq el-Bishri, considered one of Egypt's top legal minds. A former judge, he was a secular leftist but became a prominent thinker in the "moderate Islamic" political trend. He is respected on both sides as a bridge between the movements. Sobhi Saleh, the Brotherhood representative, was jailed for three days during the protests.

The military is pushing ahead with a quick transition. Generals on the council said the military wants to hand power to a government and elected president within six months, the firmest timetable yet outlined. The constitutional panel has 10 days to propose its changes to be put to a referendum. President Barack Obama praised the military council for working toward elections and a return of civilian control.

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