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Egypt hardliners to back moderate Islamist for top job


CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's hardline Islamic fundamentalist party Al-Nur has decided to support a moderate ex-Muslim Brotherhood member in next month's presidential election, the party announced on Saturday.

Al-Nur's parliamentary group "has decided to back Abdel Moneim Abol Fotouh for the presidency of the republic," an Al-Nur statement said.

Abol Fotouh is a former senior leader of the Brotherhood which expelled him from the movement last year.

Seen as a moderate Islamist, Abol Fotouh has the support of many young members of the Muslim Brotherhood who object to the movement's conservative attitude.

He is also well seen by a large number of the young people who participated in last year's uprising that toppled long-time president Hosni Mubarak.

The decision by Al-Nur, which has around 20 percent of the seats in parliament, could cause problems for official Brotherhood candidate Mohammed Mursi, who risks losing a large section of the Islamist vote to Abol Fotouh.

Mursi heads the Freedom and Justice Party (FJP), the political wing of the large and powerful Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt.

The first round of the first presidential election since Mubarak's downfall on February 11 last year will be on May 23 and 24.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which has ruled the country since the long-time strongman was ousted, has said it will transfer power in June once the new president has been elected.

The other main candidates for Egypt's top job next month are former foreign minister and Arab League chief Amr Mussa and Ahmed Shafiq, Mubarak's last prime minister.

A total of 13 candidates are standing in the election.

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