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Will Egypt's government now strike a deal with the Muslim Brotherhood?

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Compromise talks begin

Al Arabiya reported in the early afternoon in Cairo that talks had begun between Vice President Omar Suleiman, Brotherhood representatives, Coptic Christian billionaire Naguib Sawiris, and a representative of Mohamed ElBaradei, the Egyptian Nobel Prizewinner who has been pushing for democratic reform in Egypt in the past two years. They are presenting themselves as a broad front representing multiple streams in Egyptian society, but ground-level democracy demonstrators are suspicious that a group of elites without true grass-roots support is about to cut a back-room deal.

"The protesters know that if we withdraw before our demands are met, the government will hunt us down and try to crush us," says Khaled Abol Naga, an Egyptian film star who has joined the protests. "There is no trust of anyone from the regime, not just Mubarak."

Vice President Suleiman's key role

Over the weekend, US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton strongly supported Vice President Suleiman -- a former general and longtime intelligence chief until Mubarak named him vice president in late January -- as the focal point for efforts to open up Egyptian politics. Mubarak appears to have handed off all responsibility for dealing with the protesters to Suleiman and other members of the military establishment.

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