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Advisers pull out of Egypt constitution panel

A group of technical advisers assigned to assist in drafting Egypt's new constitution have resigned, saying their voices were not heard. The disagreement fuels concern it may not be ready by a December 12 deadline.

The resignations, which came on Saturday according to Egyptian state news agency MENA, complicate an already uneasy process rife with infighting between Islamists and liberals.

The 100-member constituent assembly, which is drafting the constitution of Egypt, the Arab world's most populous country, appointed the advisers several weeks ago to provide technical assistance.

The advisers said they wanted "a complete draft that is appropriate for Egypt and achieves the goals of the revolution of freedom and social justice," but that their advice was falling on deaf ears, MENA reported.

The constitution is to be voted upon in a referendum, and is considered a key part of the democratic transition that followed the ousting of former President Hosni Mubarak last year.

Without the document, the country cannot hold elections to replace the parliament that a court dissolved in June. That previous parliament was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood, the party of Egypt's current and first elected President Mohamed Morsi.

Religious tension

Among the resigning advisers were representatives of Egypt's three Christian Churches: the Coptic Orthodox church (pictured above), the Coptic Catholic church and the Anglican Church.

A draft of the constitution published last month received heavy criticism from local and international rights groups as failing to protect key rights. The draft also indicated that it will have more Islamic references than the previous constitution.

Morsi has pledged to provide equal rights for Christians, who make up 10 percent of Egypt's 83 million people, but his party has said it wants to gradually impose an Islamic state.

The advisers said that most of their recommendations were unrelated to Islamic law, but rather were about the balance of power and other issues.

dr/jr (Reuters, AFP)