* Drafting assembly beset with problems
* May miss crucial Dec. 12 deadline
* Representatives of three churches withdraw from assembly
* Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa says may resign
CAIRO, Nov 17 (Reuters) - A group of technical advisers
helping to write Egypt's new constitution resigned on Saturday,
saying they would draw up a draft of their own because their
voices were not being heard, state news agency MENA said.
The resignations further complicate a drafting process
delayed by bickering among Islamists and liberals, raising
doubts whether the document would be ready by a Dec. 12
The constitution, to be voted upon in a referendum, is a
cornerstone of Egypt's democratic transition after the uprising
that ousted Hosni Mubarak last year.
Without it, the country cannot hold elections to replace a
parliament declared void by a court in June. The dissolved
parliament was dominated by the Muslim Brotherhood of President
Mohamed Mursi, who is the first elected president of the Arab
world's most populous state.
The 100-member constituent assembly drafting the
constitution appointed the advisers several weeks ago to provide
Representatives of three Christian churches have also said
they were withdrawing their five members from the assembly, and
on Wednesday former presidential candidate Amr Moussa, a
liberal, said he and other members had suspended their
The advisers said they wanted "a complete draft that is
appropriate for Egypt and achieves the goals of the revolution
of freedom and social justice," but that their advice was being
ignored and they had become superfluous, MENA reported.
The assembly's chairman, Hossam El Gheriany, said he
regretted the advisers' withrawal, but their complaints were
unjustified and all of their recommendations had been
distributed to the assembly's members, MENA reported.
Drafts of the constitution drawn up by the assembly so far
indicate it will have more Islamic references than the previous
constitution, worrying more liberal-minded Egyptians and
Christians, who make up about a tenth of the nation of 83
million. They fear the imposition of social restrictions.
An important article stating that "the principles of sharia"
are the main source of legislation has until now remained
unchanged from the old constitution. But a new article seeks to
spell out what those principles are.
Sharia is Islamic religious law.
Monsef Soliman, one of three representatives of the Coptic
Orthodox Church in the assembly, said the decision to withdraw
was taken on Thursday. Representatives of the Catholic and
Anglican churches have also withdrawn, Soliman said.
Former presidential candidate Amr Moussa said on Wednesday
that a small group with its own agenda within the assembly was
pushing articles through without proper discussion, and that he
and others would decide on Sunday if they would resign from the
The technical advisers said most of their recommendations
were unrelated to the articles on sharia, but rather those
dealing with the balance of power and other issues.
President Mursi will not attend the installation ceremony of
the new Coptic pope, Tawardros II, on Sunday, the church said on
Friday, to the dismay of Christians who fear being sidelined in
the new Islamist-led Egypt.
(Writing by Patrick Werr; editing by Jason Webb)