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Muslim Brotherhood downplays takeover fears

CAIRO - The leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood said Tuesday he is prepared to compromise with the ruling military on the formation of a new government, and that fears of the "Islamization" of the country are overblown.

Mohammed Badie, the Brotherhood's general guide, spoke as Egyptians were voting in runoffs for the first round of parliamentary elections, which have been dominated by the fundamentalist group and the hard-line Al-Nour bloc.

"We must live in harmony not only with the military council, but with all of Egypt's factions, or else the conclusion is zero," Badie told the private Al-Mehwar TV station. "There will be reconciliation between the three powers: the parliament, the government and the military ruling council."

His comments appeared to be an attempt to reassure Egyptians and foreign allies that the Brotherhood remains committed to democracy and does not want to take the country down an extremist path.

An Egyptian army soldier guards at the roof of a polling center next to an electoral poster for a candidate of the Al-Nour Party, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Dec. 5, 2011. AP Photo/Nasser Nasser

The Brotherhood, Egypt's largest and best organized political group, grabbed about 37 percent of the vote, according to partial results released Sunday. But the Al-Nour bloc won nearly a quarter of the vote for the ultraconservative Salafis, who seek to impose strict Islamic law in Egypt.

The strong Islamist showing came at the expense of liberal activist groups that led the uprising against Hosni Mubarak, toppling a regime long seen as a secular bulwark in the Middle East.

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Elections which began on Nov. 28 are staggered over three stages and conclude in March.

They are the first since Mubarak's ouster and the freest and fairest in living memory. Voters are choosing both individual candidates and parties and runoffs on Monday and Tuesday will determine almost all the seats allocated for individuals in the first round, about a third of parliament's 498 seats.

In theory, the new parliament is tasked to select a 100-member panel to write the new constitution. But the ruling military council has floated a set of guidelines and standards for who joins the panel, sparking anger among the Brotherhood and its allies who accused the military of trying to hold on to power.

Gen. Hassan el-Rueini, a member of the military council that has ruled Egypt since Mubarak's fall, also said that the new parliament will not have the authority to form a government, setting the stage for a possible show down with Islamists, who are expected to hold majority of parliament seats.

Badie, however, tried to downplay a potential conflict with the military, saying "they will not insist and we will not insist."

"If there is a hair between us; we will not cut it," he said.