Belfast Telegraph

Sunday 5 July 2015

Embattled Egypt generals vow to speed up transfer of power

By Alastair Beach in Cairo

Published 23/11/2011 | 02:49

A protester throws  a tear gas grenade back at Egyptian riot police near the interior ministry in downtown cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A protester throws a tear gas grenade back at Egyptian riot police near the interior ministry in downtown cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A woman reacts to tear gas during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)
Egyptian protesters throw stones at Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Police are clashing for a third day in Cairo's central Tahrir Square with stone-throwing protesters demanding the country's military rulers quickly transfer power to a civilian government. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)
An Egyptian protester holds canisters during the clashes with the Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Police are clashing for a third day in Cairo's central Tahrir Square with stone-throwing protesters demanding the country's military rulers quickly transfer power to a civilian government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
Two Egyptian protesters throw rocks toward Egyptian riot police in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo)
A female protester gestures as she argues with Egyptian riot police officers in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Egyptian riot police beat protesters and dismantled a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian protesters run from the scene of a building fire, seen in background, near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. local people at the scene blame the fire on police firing tear gas in the area. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Protesters run from tear gas during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo)
Egyptian protesters and riot police face off in Alexandria, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. Protesters also marched Monday other cities, including thousands of students in the coastal city of Alexandria calling for those responsible for the violence in Cairo to be punished. (AP Photo)
An Egyptian protester wearing a gas mask waves a national flag at Tahrir Square, the focal point of the recent Egyptian uprising in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov.21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in a sustained challenge to the rule of Egypt's military regime. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
A protester stands on top of a burned car during clashes with Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian proteters shout anti ruling military council at Tahrir Square, the focal point of the recent Egyptian uprising in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in a sustained challenge to the rule of Egypt's military regime. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Protesters evacuate a wounded man during clashes with Egyptian riot police near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A protester takes a cover behind a burned car during clashes with Egyptian riot police near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A protester throws a tear gas cannister during clashes with Egyptian riot police near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A protester covers his face as he looks from behind a wall at Egyptian riot police, unseen, during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Protesters move away from tear gas fired by Egyptian riot police, not seen, during clashes near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
An Egyptian protester throws a tear gas canister as a man, left, looks on during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo)
Protesters gather in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military.(AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Egyptian police officer throws a rock at protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Egyptian riot police beat protesters and dismantled a small tent city set up to commemorate revolutionary martyrs in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian protesters shouts at the scene of a building fire, seen in background, near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Local people at the scene blame the fire on police firing tear gas in the area. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
Wounded protesters are seen in a field hospital during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo)
An Egyptian protester uses a handmade sling shot to throw rocks toward Egyptian riot police in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo)
Protesters carry a youth wounded during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation Monday, trying to stem a spiraling crisis as thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square clashed for the third straight day with security forces in violence that has killed dozens of people and posed the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of the military. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian protesters gesture during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo)
Protesters carry a man wounded during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation Monday, trying to stem a spiraling crisis as thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square clashed for the third straight day with security forces in violence that has killed dozens of people and posed the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of the military. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Protesters carry a man wounded during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation Monday, trying to stem a spiraling crisis as thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square clashed for the third straight day with security forces in violence that has killed dozens of people and posed the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of the military. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian protesters gather around Tahrir square during the clashes with the Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
Protesters carry a man wounded during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egypt's army-appointed government handed in its resignation Monday, trying to stem a spiraling crisis as thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square clashed for the third straight day with security forces in violence that has killed dozens of people and posed the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of the military. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
A wounded Egyptian protester reacts as a medic treats him in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo)
Two Egyptian protesters accompany a man, center, overcome with tear gas inhalation during the clashes with Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
Egyptian protesters gather around Tahrir square during the clashes with the Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
CORRECTS CREATION DATE - Egyptian riot police are seen on the move during clashes with protesters in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)
A protester sits in a police truck destroyed during clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Thousands of police clashed with protesters for control of downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday after security forces tried to stop activists from staging a long-term sit-in there. The violence took place just nine days before Egypt's first elections since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
An Egyptian protester holds shells during the clashes with the Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Tahrir square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)
CORRECTS CREATION DATE - Protesters evacuate a wounded man during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Ahmed Ali)
Tear gas surrounds Egyptian riot police as they stand guard during clashes in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Thousands of police clashed with protesters for control of downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday after security forces tried to stop activists from staging a long-term sit-in there. The violence took place just nine days before Egypt's first elections since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Egyptian protesters help an injured journalist, Maher Malak, from the scene of a building fire, seen in background, near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Local people at the scene blame the fire on police firing tear gas in the area. Egyptian riot police clashed Monday with thousands of protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
A wounded protester is evacuated during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Sunday, Nov. 20, 2011. Firing tear gas and rubber bullets, Egyptian riot police on Sunday clashed for a second day with thousands of rock-throwing protesters demanding that the ruling military quickly announce a date to hand over power to an elected government. The police battled an estimated 5,000 protesters in and around central Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the 18-day uprising that toppled authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo)
Protesters help a wounded man during clashes with Egyptian riot police in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, Nov. 19, 2011. Thousands of police clashed with protesters for control of downtown Cairo's Tahrir Square on Saturday after security forces tried to stop activists from staging a long-term sit-in there. The violence took place just nine days before Egypt's first elections since the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak in February. (AP Photo/Khalil Hamra)
Protesters evacuate a wounded man during clashes with Egyptian riot police to a field hospital near Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed at least two dozen people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill)
Egyptian proteters shout anti-ruling military council slogans at Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Security forces fired tear gas and clashed Monday with several thousand protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square in the third straight day of violence that has killed dozens of people and has turned into the most sustained challenge yet to the rule of Egypt's military. (AP Photo/Amr Nabil)
An Egyptian protester gestures during the clashes with Egyptian riot police, unseen, in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Nov. 21, 2011. Police are clashing for a third day in Cairo's central Tahrir Square with stone-throwing protesters demanding the country's military rulers quickly transfer power to a civilian government. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)

Egypt's underfire ruling generals finally bowed to the demands of protesters last night as the biggest rally since the February uprising forced them to promise a handover to civilian rule by July next year.

On the back of the worst violence since the last days of Hosni Mubarak, politicians who met the military council for crisis talks said Egypt's interim military leaders had agreed to set a date for presidential elections — one of the key demands of activists. There was even an offer of a referendum on the immediate transfer of power to civilian rule.

The announcement came after scenes reminiscent of the protests that toppled the former regime, as tens of thousands of Egyptians flocked to downtown Cairo to demand a handover to civilian rule before the 2013 date offered by the military rulers.

“We agreed July as the month to transfer power to a civilian President,” said Emad Abdel Ghafour, leader of the fundamentalist Islamic Al-Nour Party, who was at the cross-party meeting. He added that a new head of state would be sworn in after the June presidential election, ending military rule.

Egypt's generals also accepted the resignation of Prime Minster Essam Sharaf and his government, paving the way for an interim government.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the de facto head of state who has been the focus of anti-military chants this week, later confirmed the military's plan to leave as an enormous crowd gathered in Tahrir Square on a day they had earlier called the “march of the million”. In a further boon to protesters, he met another demand — to stop the practice of using |military courts to try civilians.

Field Marshal Tantawi blamed hidden forces for driving a wedge between the people and the military. The crowds were still in Tahrir Square to hear the address. “We are not leaving, he leaves,” the protesters chanted. “The people want to bring down the Field Marshal.”

It followed four days of rioting across the country. At least 33 people have been killed during the clashes, which began when police attacked protesters camped out in Tahrir Square on Saturday.

There had been fears that with elections just days away, the much-touted “second revolution” demanded by some activists would have scuppered the nation's first democratic poll.

Several protesters killed during rioting were shot by live fire — despite official denials that live rounds were not used.

Sherif Nash, director of Cairo University Hospital, where staff have treated hundreds of injured protesters, said doctors had retrieved bullets fired at demonstrators.

Profile

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi was born in 1935 and served his military education in Russia during the 1950s. He fought during the 1956 Suez Crisis, when the wildly popular Gamal Abdel Nasser nationalised the Suez Canal.

He later served in the 1967 and 1973 wars against Israel. He was a close confidant of former president Hosni Mubarak, serving as defence minister from 1991 and commander of the armed forces four years later.

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