The united front among Egyptian opposition parties fractured Saturday as several of them began negotiating with Vice President Omar Suleiman, despite earlier promises that they would not agree to talks until President Hosni Mubarak stepped down.
Suleiman met Saturday with representatives from several opposition parties. But representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt's largest opposition party, said they had not participated in the talks. Nor did Mohamed ElBaradei, the democracy advocate and Nobel Peace Prize laureate, who had earlier been chosen by opposition parties as their spokesman.
Mounir Fakhry Abdel Nour, secretary general of the liberal Wafd Party, said he and other party officials had presented Suleiman with their proposals for constitutional change. Nour said that Suleiman mostly listened but at one point told the Wafd officials that "we need to go ahead with this as soon as possible."
Nour said Suleiman ruled out Mubarak's resignation from the presidency. "Not only will he not resign, he will not cede or delegate his powers," Nour said.
That stance means it is unlikely other opposition parties will join the talks. Nour said that Wafd decided to enter into negotiations because it did not see an alternative that would not involve an army takeover.
"We need a transition of power within a constitutional framework," he said. "At this stage, we have two possible directions: either constitutional reforms or a coup d'etat by the army. I don't see another way out."
Separately, a council of about 30 Egyptian intellectuals and business leaders continued holding talks but had not heard back from the government on an earlier proposal for a way out of the crisis, according to Nabil El Arabi, a retired international judge and member of the group.