The Egyptian president and top judges have agreed to find a compromise over Islamist attempts to force out thousands of judges. The government's initial plan would have lowered the mandatory age of retirement.
Allies of President Mohamed Morsi had proposed legislation to remove more than 3,000 judges by reducing the age of retirement from 70 to 60 years. The move would get rid of judges who had been appointed by former President Hosni Mubarak.
But after three hours of talks on Sunday, the president's office and the Supreme Judicial Council said a conference would be held on the future of the justice system to work out a reform acceptable to both sides. After the meeting, opponents of the proposed law canceled protests set for Monday.
The conciliation would appear to be a climbdown by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood backers. A spokesman for the president said, in a televised statement, that the president praised the idea of the justice conference, adding that preparatory sessions would be started on Tuesday. The president would "personally adopt all the conclusions of this conference in draft laws and present them to the legislative council," the spokesman said.
The announcement for a justice conference effectively shelves the law on retiring judges for now.
The Brotherhood accuses many judges of being left over from the previous regime and of abusing their position to obstruct elections and laws proposed by bodies elected since the uprising. The judges are also accused of blocking efforts to bring corrupt former officials to justice.
From the other side, the Brotherhood is accused of trying to monopolise power by purging independent judges, thus making way for their own men.
Opponents and supporters of the bill to reduce the age of judges were involved in street clashes in the capital nine days ago. Thousands of judges met last week and called on international organizations to investigate. The dispute also prompted the resignations of top aides and advisers to the presidency.
Separately, a key Egyptian negotiator with the International Monetary Fund (IMF) said on Sunday he had resigned as first deputy finance minister. Hany Kadry Dimian has been the crucial point man in Egypt's negotiations for a 3.7 billion euro ($4.8 billion) loan it needs for its troubled economy. "The only comment I can make for the time being is that yes, my term ends on April 30 according to my resignation, which I submitted in December," Kadry told the Reuters news agency by telephone. "My next move is not decided," he added.
jm/ch (Reuters, AP)