Activists divided over pace of political reform

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Egypt's military is under pressure to accelerate liberalising measures – including a swift end to emergency regulations and the freeing of political prisoners – amid differences between opposition activists over whether reforms are being introduced fast enough.

The military confirmed yesterday that it was hoping to hand over power to an elected government in six months and appointed an independent judge, Tareq al-Bishry, as chairman of a commission that will spend the next 10 days on drafting amendments to the constitution.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which is the best organised opposition group, announced its intention to form a political party to fight a future election. It said that repeal of emergency provisions and freeing detainees would help to create a "bridge of confidence".

Some activists – such as the Google marketing executive Wael Ghonim, who was detained for 12 days during the protests – have extended a warm welcome for what they say is the military's new-found willingness to listen to youth leaders of the uprising. But others warned that a rally called for this Friday should be a "reminder" of their demands, as well as a peaceful celebration of the ousting of President Hosni Mubarak.

Wael Abbas, a long -time dissident blogger during the Mubarak regime, said: "The army is the same army that was under Hosni Mubarak." Mr Abbas charged that the army had detained – and in some cases tortured – protesters and that he had doubts about the reform committee it had created to oversee constitutional change.

But Abdel Rahman Yousef, a prominent figure in the National Association for Change, said: "I am optimistic [because] the people know the road to Tahrir Square now and they can go back if they do not get what they are asking for."

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