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EGYPT: Tantawi calls for calm, promises to crush sectarian instigators with 'iron fist'

May 17, 2011 |  4:20 am

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In his first public speech since his military council came to power in February, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi on Monday called on the country's citizens to help improve their own security and with it, the national economy.

Tantawi, 75, spoke at a graduation ceremony for police cadets broadcast on state television.

He said the fate of the country's security and the economy are linked, and he decried protests and labor strikes that have damaged both.

"Let's leave the past aside, not forget it, but put it aside for now so that we can push forward with the most energy we have," Tantawi said.

Protesters have criticized the military government for arresting activists and imprisoning them without charges.

Tantawi appealed for calm Monday after two weeks that saw police clash repeatedly with protesters. He spoke out against sectarian Muslim-Christian violence that left 15 people dead earlier this month in a northern Cairo neighborhood.

He said the government will crush instigators of sectarian violence with "an iron fist."

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 -- Molly Hennessy-Fiske in Cairo

Photo: Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, head of the Egyptian Armed Forces Supreme Council,  in Cairo on May 3. Credit: Cai Yang/EPA.

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