BEIRUT

Middle East

Islamist adviser to Egypt's president quits

Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi attends the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) summit in Cairo February 6, 2013. REUTERS/Asmaa Waguih

CAIRO: An ultraconservative Islamist adviser to Egypt's president resigned Monday in solidarity with a fellow aide who was fired amid allegations of abuse of office.

The resignation of Bassam Zarka, who is a member of the Salafi Al-Nour party, is the latest sign of tension between President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood and its Islamist ally ahead of parliamentary elections expected in the coming months.

The party denies its member had abused his office.

Al-Nour, which emerged from obscurity to win the second largest bloc of votes in Egypt's first parliamentary elections in 2011 - just behind the Brotherhood - has been increasingly critical of Morsi and the Brotherhood for what it describes as their monopolization of power.

Some of its members have accused Morsi, in office for over seven months, of failing to reach a compromise with the vocal liberal and secular opposition, prolonging political turmoil that was characterized by violent street protests and a heavy-handed security crackdown on dissent.

In an escalation of street turmoil in the restive coastal city of Port Said, hundreds of protesters blocked central roads and enforced a work stoppage in some government and port customs offices for the second straight day. They demanded retribution and a new investigation into the death of scores of people during anti-government protests in the strategic Suez Canal city last month.

The strike did not disrupt shipping in the Canal, but it has raised pressure on Morsi's government to do something to resolve it.

In an attempt to assuage the situation, local Governor Maj. Gen. Ahmed Abdullah said the state would increase the amount of compensation it would pay for those killed in the violence, and that the central government had promised a new investigation.

Signs of a rift between the Salafi Al-Nour and the Brotherhood have been surfacing in the past weeks, including a public spat over credit for who organized a reconciliation meeting with liberal opposition figures. Competition between the various Islamist parties is expected to be fierce in the upcoming elections.

On Sunday, presidential spokesman Yasser Ali had announced the dismissal of Zarka's colleague, Khaled Alam Eldin, adviser to the president for environmental affairs. Another official in the presidency, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not

authorized to brief reporters, said Alam Eldin was fired over reports of abuse of power.

At the news conference broadcast live on television on Monday where Zarka resigned, his fired Al-Nour colleague Alam Eldin broke down in tears while denying he had abused his office. He demanded an apology from Morsi for the dismissal, calling it "political" and saying he was offended by how he was informed of an investigation into his tenure.

"I will accept nothing less than an apology from the president," Alam Eldin said, reaching out for a handkerchief from the podium. "I am amazed at those who in cold blood and for political reasons don't care about who they hurt."

Alam Eldin's tears followed an announcement from his party's spokesman that an apology is imminent. But the president's legal adviser, Mohammed Fouad Gadallah said there was no reason for an apology.

"Apologize for what?" he told the station during the conference. "There are accusations that turned into evidence, and an investigation which proves that one of his team has committed crimes." The dismissal was to ward off smearing the presidency, he added.

In an angry reaction, Al-Nour's spokesman Nader Bakkar wrote on his Twitter account that Morsi himself should consider resigning "since some of his subordinates are suspected of intentionally killing protesters."

 

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