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Via Reuters, by Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed
CAIRO (Reuters) - Omar Suleiman, the former spy chief now trying to run for the Egyptian presidency, says he wants the job to stop it going to the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood - but sees the Brotherhood playing a vital role in Egyptian politics.
A powerful but shadowy figure during the Hosni Mubarak era and one of the former president's closest aides, Suleiman joined the presidential race at the last minute and is now fighting disqualification by the commission overseeing the vote.
In a dramatic announcement on Saturday, the commission struck off 10 contenders, including Suleiman and two other front runners - a Muslim Brotherhood candidate and a Salafi preacher.
Suleiman's team gathered 49,000 signatures in 15 provinces - more than the 30,000 needed - to back his candidacy, but the commission said he had 1,000 votes too few in one province. He has until Monday to appeal.
His campaign team announced on Sunday the suspension of his presidential campaign until April 26, when a final list of all eligible candidates is due to be announced.
In an interview with Reuters on Saturday, before his exclusion was announced, Suleiman, 74, said he was running for office in response to public demands for a counterweight to Islamist influence.
"This is why they sought me, as a balance between Islamists and civilian forces," said Suleiman, who describes himself as a devout Muslim but adds that Egyptians fear their country is being turned into a theocracy.
"Many people felt that the state is going to the Muslim Brotherhood - in parliament, in government and now the presidency," Suleiman said.