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Egypt's military rulers agree to speed up handover of power

November 22, 2011 |  9:22 am

REPORTING FROM CAIRO — Egypt’s military rulers agreed Tuesday to speed up the timetable for a transfer of power to a civilian government, but it was not immediately clear whether the gesture would appease tens of thousands of protesters or calm the unrest that has left at least 29 people dead.

In another concession to protesters, according to state media, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces accepted the resignation of the widely unpopular military-backed interim government. The generals said a new "national salvation" government would be put in place until July, when the military would step aside.

"Presidential elections to be held by the end of June and the final preparations for handing over power by July 1," Emad Abdel Ghafour, leader of the ultraconservative Islamist Nour party, told Reuters news service.

FULL COVERAGE: Unrest in Egypt

The military had previously indicated it would not relinquish control of the country until after presidential elections in 2013. Its latest moves were announced after emergency talks with political parties.

Demonstrators, who surged into the square as darkness fell, had promised not to leave until ruling generals themselves relinquished power. Egyptian TV reported that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who was chanted against and vilified by protesters, would address the nation Tuesday night.

Dozens were injured in downtown Cairo as police fired tear gas to keep protesters from reaching the nearby Interior Ministry, a long reviled symbol of state repression. Demonstrators were angry not only at the military but also at political parties, including the dominant Muslim Brotherhood, for not strongly supporting a wave of nationwide protests that began Friday.

The Brotherhood, which is expected to win a major share of seats in parliament in elections Monday, feared that the protests would jeopardize or delay the elections.

"I'm against all the political parties,” said Sayed Mahmoud Ali, a protester and restaurant owner. “They've been letting us down since Friday when they decided to abandon the sit-in.

"I'm leaving my work and family behind to be here, so what are politicians waiting for?" Ali asked. "It seems to me that politicians want to win the parliament and the presidency over the bodies of martyrs dying here in the square."

As he spoke, crowds swelled into Cairo's Tahrir Square with placards and banners reminiscent of last winter's uprising that overthrew President Hosni Mubarak.

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— Jeffrey Fleishman 


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