CAIRO - The head of Egypt's Republican Guard said forces deployed outside the presidential palace on Thursday had been sent there to separate supporters and opponents of President Mohamed Morsi not to oppress them.

Calling for calm, General Mohamed Zaki told the state-run Middle East News Agency that the troops would not be used against the protesters.

"The armed forces, and at the forefront of them the Republican Guard, will not be used as a tool to oppress the demonstrators," he said.

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