Cairo demo insists army quit, rejects new PM

Cairo demo insists army quit, rejects new PM

CAIRO — Tens of thousands of demonstrators packed Cairo’s Tahrir Square on Friday after days of deadly clashes, demanding the military rulers step down and rejecting their choice of new prime minister.

By (AFP)

Published: Fri 25 Nov 2011, 10:11 PM

Last updated: Tue 7 Apr 2015, 2:44 AM

Ahead of elections due to start on Monday despite the political turmoil, Egypt’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) tasked Kamal al-Ganzuri, 78, a premier under ousted president Hosni Mubarak, to head a new cabinet.

“Previous cabinets over the past 60 years were given many powers by the president of the republic,” Ganzuri told a media conference, his first public statement after his appointment.

He himself had been granted “much more powers” than past premiers, said Ganzuri, who served as Mubarak’s prime minister between 1996 and 1999.

But protesters in the square quickly rejected his appointment, saying he was not the man to lead a transition to democracy.

“I think he was popular in his era, and successful. He did good during his period, but this is not his time,” said Abdullah Ahmed 22, a university student.

“He’s a good guy, but the square doesn’t want him,” said another protester, Yahya Hamad.

Hundreds of protesters in the square later branched off to the nearby cabinet offices in a bid to prevent Ganzuri from entering the building, an AFP reporter said.

The protest objected to Ganzuri’s appointment and “protesters will hold a news conference shortly,” one of the organisers, Ahmed Zahran, told AFP.

The protesters meanwhile were bolstered by an announcement that the grand imam of Al-Azhar, Sunni Islam’s highest authority, had thrown his weight behind them.

“The grand imam (Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb) backs you and is praying for your victory,” senior aide Hassan Shafie told them during a visit to the square.

And the imam at the square who led tens of thousands of worshippers in prayer called on the ruling military to hand over power to a national salvation government.

Sheikh Mazhar Shahin said protesters would remain in the square until their demands were met.

“There is no option but a national salvation government with the powers of a president,” he sai

Former UN nuclear watchdog chief and presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei, whose name has been widely touted to be part of a salvation government, also joined the protesters in the square on Friday.

The Tahrir protest was countered by more than ten thousand protesters who gathered in a square about three kilometres (two miles) away to show support for the military.

“Down with Tahrir” and “Yes to the military council,” they chanted.

The rallies came three days before the first parliamentary elections since Mubarak’s ouster in February, which left the military in charge.

Washington, a close ally of Egypt, called on Friday for quick transfer to civilian rule.

“We believe that the full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible,” White House press secretary Jay Carney said in a statement.

“The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,” Carney said.

On Tuesday, the SCAF accepted the resignation of the caretaker cabinet headed by the once-popular Essam Sharaf, whose fall from grace was due to his perceived weakness in the face of the army.

The SCAF has said repeatedly that it does not have political ambitions and plans to hand power to an elected civilian authority after presidential elections which are set to take place no later than the end of June 2012.

On Thursday, SCAF insisted it would not bow to pressure from the protesters in Tahrir, saying they did not represent the whole country.

“The people have entrusted us with a mission and, if we abandon it now, it would be a betrayal of the people,” senior SCAF member General Mukthar al-Mulla told reporters, adding the military did not want to stay in power.

The violence, in which at least 41 protesters have been killed — 36 of them in Cairo — and more than 3,000 injured, led to the resignation of caretaker Sharaf’s cabinet.

The deaths had prompted an unusually strongly worded statement from Al-Azhar, which denounced police violence and called on the interior ministry “not to point their weapons at demonstrators.”

The clashes have cast a shadow over Monday’s parliamentary elections, prompting the SCAF to pledge to maintain security for the polls and insist they will take place on time.

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