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Egypt's Brotherhood party details platform akin to that of Iran

CAIRO - The Muslim Brotherhood has laid down its first detailed political platform, which would bar women and Christians from becoming Egypt's president and establish a board of Muslim clerics to oversee the government, reminiscent of Iran's Islamic state.

The platform has dismayed secular prodemocracy activists who had cautiously hoped the Brotherhood was becoming more moderate and who supported the movement in the face of an unprecedentedly tough government crackdown against it.

The document also complicates the debate in Egypt over how to deal with the Brotherhood, which proved its widespread popularity in 2005 parliament elections.

The Brotherhood in recent years has increasingly touted itself as a reform movement, insisting it wants a democratic playing field and an end to the autocratic rule of President Hosni Mubarak's regime. Some secular activists have said that, given the Brotherhood's popularity, there can't be real democracy in Egypt unless the group has a seat at the political table.

But the platform illustrated the dominance of a more hard-line trend in the Brotherhood, or Daawi - Arabic for "preaching" - over a minority of moderates who call for a civic government that respects Islamic principles.

"Conservatives are the majority inside the group in general," said Abdel Moneim Mohammed, a young Brotherhood activist who has criticized the controversial aspects of the platform on his blog.

The blueprint is a draft platform for a Brotherhood political party, which Mubarak's government has vowed never to allow. The Brotherhood circulated the draft last month to a number of intellectuals for reaction.

So far, that has been strongly negative.

"It establishes a religious state," said Abdel Moneim Said, head of the leading Al Ahram Center for Strategic and Political Studies. "It's an assassination to the civic state."

The program calls for the formation of a commission of senior religious scholars, chosen in national elections, to advise parliament and the president, according to a copy of the program obtained by The Associated Press.

The commission's position on government and parliament decisions would be the "recommended one," suggesting it could veto those decisions. The platform says parliament could overrule the board but not in issues governed by "proven texts" of Islamic Sharia law, a vague phrase that could apply to a wide range of issues.

The proposed commission recalls the system in Iran, where clerical councils have final say on a wide range of political issues and can even vet candidates running for president and parliament.

Mohammed Mursi, head of the Brotherhood committee that drafted the blueprint, defended it, saying the clerical body would play only a consultative rule. "We don't want a religious state," Mursi said.

He said the Brotherhood could make changes in the draft before it publishes its final version. He did not say when the final text would be announced.

The program also bars women and Christians from holding the post of president - Christians because the presidency and the prime minister's post have Islamic religious duties, so "non-Muslims are excused from holding this mission," it said.

The president cannot be a woman because the post's religious and military duties "contradict with her nature, social and other humanitarian roles," the document said.

The blueprint recognizes the "equality between men and women in terms of their human dignity," but also warns against "burdening women with duties against their nature or role in the family."

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