Egyptian political groups on Sunday gave the ruling generals until Wednesday to withdraw a constitutional proposal that shields the army from oversight in parliament, saying they would otherwise hold an anti-military protest Friday.
Islamist and liberal parties, including the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, said however that the army would still have special status but only in relation to issues of national security.
Earlier this month the cabinet proposed a document of guiding principles for a new constitution that gave the military exclusive authority to approve any legislation on its internal affairs, potentially allowing it to defy an elected government.
But political groups and democracy campaigners objected, fearing that the new parliament will count for little unless the army submits to civilian rule and a future president who will replace Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a February uprising.
Those meeting today are in agreement that the constitutional document proposed is absolutely rejected by all, Mohamed Saad el-Katatni, Secretary General of the Freedom and Justice Party said.
We therefore ask that the government and the military council end this controversy over this issue, he said, adding that the parties also called for a timetable to hold presidential elections by April 2012.
The parties would meet again Wednesday to discuss the possibility of holding a protest Friday should the military council fail to withdraw its proposal, Katatni added.
Winners in the parliamentary elections due on November 28 will have a chance to draft the new constitution, the subject of power struggles between Islamists, liberals and the army.
However Katatni, reading a joint statement, said the parties offered the army guarantees regarding all that is related to national security.
We confirm that the armed forces have a special status and specific affairs related to national security, which must be considered when drafting the constitution, he said.
Katatni said the new parliament would consider the army's position when discussing its budget but stressed that such guarantees did not need a constitutional decree at this time,
The army is just like any other executive authority and must be bound by constitutional provisions, Katatni added.
The ruling military council took power after Mubarak was toppled in a popular uprising on February 11. Military men have ruled Egypt since a 1952 military coup and control a large portion of the economy.
(Writing by Marwa Awad)