Government apologizes to PA for minister’s provocation

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CAIRO: Minister of Parliamentary Affairs Mohamed Atteya apologized Sunday to the People’s Assembly on behalf of Minister of Social Solidarity Gouda Abdel Khaleq, who had earlier lashed out at an MP who heckled him.

In the last half hour of the PA session dedicated to discussing unemployment, MP Mohamed Abdallah Aly cut in while Abdel Khaleq read out a statement on behalf of the manpower minister, wondering whether the government truly intends to solve the problem or prefers to reduce the number of Egyptians instead.

"You are accusing the government of plotting and conspiring against the Egyptian people," Abdel Khaleq barked back, triggering collective condemnation from other MPs.

PA Speaker Saad El-Katatny halted the discussion pending an appearance by the Minister of Manpower and demanded an apology from the government for violating the PA bylaws and addressing the MPs directly.

Earlier, the PA’s constitutional and legislative committee decided to amend the law regulating presidential elections to be first approved by the PA and the Supreme Constitutional Court before opening registration for presidential elections on March 10.

The PA’s subcommittee had also decided to revise some notorious laws that were issued under the former regime, as well as the laws issued by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) before the PA was seated, including the controversial Al-Azhar law, which was issued by SCAF only three days before the opening session.

The human rights subcommittee on Sunday called upon MPs and religious preachers to continue their efforts to resolve the issue of the forced displacement of Coptic families from Sharbat village in Amreya, Alexandria.

"A calm return should be guaranteed to these families," said Mohamed Anwar El-Sadat, head of the committee.

El-Sadat urged the Interior Ministry and the General Prosecution to prosecute the perpetrators of the sectarian violence through a fair legal process.

El-Katatny agreed that there was no alternative to the rule of law and that parliament refuses any forced evictions.

"It is time to discuss the draft laws that have been kept in drawers for years like the law that regulates the construction of houses of worship, anti-discrimination and equal opportunity and the personal status laws for non-Muslims," he said while reading the committee’s report on the incident.

The PA was also supposed to discuss a health committee report regarding a visit to Tora prison hospital to inspect preparations to receive ousted President Hosni Mubarak. Yet the report was not discussed.

Some 11 members of the committee had visited the hospital last Wednesday to inspect the repairs and construction work.

Al-Nour Party MP Mamdouh Ismail also called upon the PA to support the Foreign Ministry’s decision to withdraw the Egyptian ambassador in Syria.

Egypt had recalled its ambassador to Syria on Sunday and as a response Syria withdrew its ambassador to Egypt.

Egypt’s Foreign Minister Mohamed Kamel Amr said that the withdrawal of the Egyptian ambassador from Damascus is a step that can be taken if it is in favor of the Syrian people.

"We have open channels of communication in Syria led by the Egyptian ambassador that gives us details of the situation there so as not to depend on satellite channels as sources of information and the evidence is that the European Union didn’t withdraw any of its ambassadors there," Amr said in a statement.

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