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Egypt to hold mid-January constitutional referendum: minister

Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour attends a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (not seen) at El-Thadiya presidential
Egypt's interim President Adli Mansour attends a meeting with EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton (not seen) at El-Thadiya presidential

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt will hold a referendum on a new constitution in the middle of January, a government minister said on Monday.

Hany Mahmoud, minister of administrative development, said the vote would be held nationwide over two days. "We are talking about mid-January," Mahmoud said in an interview with Egyptian TV channel CBC.

The new constitution is an important milestone in the political transition plan drawn up by the army-installed interim government that took office after Islamist President Mohamed Mursi was deposed by the military on July 3.

A 50-member assembly finished the draft last week and handed it to interim President Adly Mansour, who has yet to set the referendum date. Mansour is expected to set the date this week, Mahmoud added in the interview, which was viewed on YouTube.

The draft removes Islamist-inspired provisions written into the Egyptian constitution approved in a referendum last year while Mursi was still in office. Among other changes, it also deepens the autonomy of the already powerful military.

The draft also allows the authorities to switch the order of elections expected next year. The plan unveiled in July required parliamentary elections to be held first, but the new constitution would allow a presidential election first.

(Reporting by Ali Abdellati; Writing by Tom Perry; Editing by Jackie Frank and Lisa Shumaker)

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