February 14, 2011 / 4:34 PM / in 6 years

UPDATE 2-Egypt sees vote on constitution changes in 2 months

4 Min Read

* Military briefs youth activists on timetable for change

* Council members see vote on constitution in two months

* Military encourages young people to form political parties

(Recasts, background)

By Marwa Awad and Andrew Hammond

CAIRO, Feb 14 (Reuters) - Egypt's ruling Higher Military Council hopes constitutional amendments can be drafted soon and put to a referendum within two months, paving the way for elections, council members have told youth activists.

Wael Ghonim said on his Facebook page that he and seven other activists involved in protests that toppled Hosni Mubarak last week met two members of the council on Sunday evening.

It was the first contact between the military council and the young pro-democracy campaigners, showing that the generals realise that those behind the revolt cannot be circumvented.

Ghonim, a Google executive who was detained for two weeks during the protests, confirmed to Reuters the contents of the meeting that he published on social networking site Facebook. "A constitutional committee known for integrity, honour and not belonging to any political trends has been formed to finish constitutional amendments in the space of 10 days and and they will be put to a referendum within two months," said the Facebook page, called "We are all Khaled Said".

The page, set up by Ghonim, is dedicated to a web activist from Alexandria who died in police custody last year.

Abdel-Rahman Samir, another activist present at the meeting, said he believed the two generals had meant that articles of the constitution that needed revising would be identified within 10 days, not that drafting would be completed by then.

An army source said the immediate priority was restoring security and reviving the economy, adding that the two-month target for a vote on the constitution was a "general time-frame".

The military said on Sunday it had dissolved parliament and suspended the constitution, and would govern the country for a period of six months or until new elections are held.

Commitment to Civilian Rule

"(They) affirmed that the army does not want to take power in Egypt and that the civilian state is the only path for Egypt's progress," Ghonim's Facebook page said.

"The army defended the continuation of the present cabinet, saying they were working to change it quickly but that a caretaker (cabinet) was necessary to protect popular interests." The report said the army would search for all demonstrators who went missing during the uprising based on a list that the youth activists will prepare.

The army also agreed to start a campaign to raise 100 billion Egyptian pounds ($17 billion) in donations to rebuild the country of 80 million people.

It also wanted young Egyptians to set up new political parties.

"The army encouraged youth to start serious steps to establish political parties that reflect their ideas and opinions," Ghonim's report said. "The role of the army will be to ensure the democratic transition and protect democracy, and it will not interfere in any way in the political process."

Egypt's political life was stunted by emergency laws applied throughout Mubarak's 30-year rule. The largest opposition group is the previously banned Muslim Brotherhood. (Editing by Alistair Lyon and Tim Pearce)

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