Egypt opposition groups call for reform

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CAIRO: Several Egyptian opposition groups called for political reforms and more freedoms in a statement on Monday at the end of a three-day conference, the official news agency MENA reported.

The groups, which include established opposition parties such as the leftist Tagammu and the liberal Al-Wafd, demanded an end to the concentration of power in the president s hands and reforms to laws that place restrictions on parties.

They also called for peaceful protests ahead of parliamentary polls due in October.

Because of lack of democracy and mono-rule, Egyptians lives are getting worse with the collapse of public services, spread of poverty, unemployment and corruption, said the statement.

Egypt has been ruled since 1981 by President Hosni Mubarak.

In 2005 he allowed multi-candidate elections which he won overwhelmingly but election observers said at the time there were irregularities in the polls.

In parliamentary elections the same year, police closed down polling stations and judges who oversaw the election said some results were rigged in favour of government candidates.

Police often target members of the banned Muslim Brotherhood group, which controls a fifth of seats in parliament after it ran candidates as independents in the 2005 election.

Aside from the Muslim Brotherhood, opposition groups in the country command little power, but dissidents have been galvanized by a new reform group founded by former UN nuclear watchdog chief Mohammed ElBaradei.

Last month ElBaradei flew to Cairo to a rapturous welcome from supporters and formed the National Association for Change. He has said he is prepared to run against Mubarak in the 2011 presidential election. -Agencies

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