Tahrir Square as protesters chant slogans (R) 311.
(photo credit: REUTERS/Amr Abdallah Dalsh)
CAIRO - Egypt's army would quit power immediately if the people voted
for it in a referendum and a presidential election will be held by
mid-2012, the head of the ruling military council said on Tuesday.
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a speech announcing concessions to over 100,000 protesters who massed in Cairo's
Tahrir Square to demand the army withdraw from power, Field Marshal
Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said the council accepted the resignation of
Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet.
armed forces, represented by their Supreme Council, do not aspire to
govern and put the supreme interest of the country above all
considerations," Tantawi said in the televised address.
the army was "completely ready to hand over responsibility immediately,
and to return to its original mission to protect the nation if the
nation wants that, via a popular referendum, if need be."
"We agreed on July as the month to transfer power to a civilian
president," Emad Abdel Ghafour, head of the Salafi
Islamist Nour (Light) Party, told Reuters.
He said a president
would be elected in June ahead of a power transfer in July. Under the
previous army timetable, the vote might not have taken place until late
2012 or early 2013.
Anger against the military council exploded
this month after a cabinet proposal to set out constitutional principles
that would permanently shield the army from civilian oversight.
Ghafour and other politicians at the meeting said parliamentary elections would start as planned on Monday.
concessions have been wrenched from the military by five days of
protests against army rule in Cairo's Tahrir Square and elsewhere amid
violence that has cost at least 36 lives.
It seemed doubtful if
they would satisfy the demonstrators, who again braved clouds of tear
gas to converge on Tahrir Square to demand that the generals relinquish
Fahmy Ali, one protester in Tahrir Square,
said the concessions did not go far enough. "We demand a full purge of
the system and the removal of the military council," he told Reuters.
earlier hanged from a lamp post an effigy of Field Marshal Mohamed
Hussein Tantawi, the 76-year-old army chief who served as Mubarak's
defense minister for two decades.
Shouman, an army major who gained fame as the first officer to join
protests against Mubarak, returned to Tahrir to join the demonstrations.
Ecstatic protesters carried him on their shoulders. Shouman was
acquitted in a military court after his defection in February, but was
suspended from service.
About 5,000 people also marched in the
port city of Alexandria to join 2,000 already demonstrating against army
rule outside a military command headquarters, witnesses said.
unrest has knocked Egypt's markets. The benchmark share index has
fallen 11 percent since Thursday, hitting its lowest level since March
2009. The Egyptian pound fell to its weakest against the dollar since
In a stinging verdict on nine months of army
control, rights group Amnesty International accused the military council
of brutality sometimes exceeding that of Mubarak.