Egypt’s military leaders pledge presidential election to ease street tension
EGYPT’S military leaders have agreed to form a new government that will run a presidential election to be held before July 2012, bowing to demands by protesters for a swifter transfer of power.
Egyptians, frustrated with military rule, had battled police in the streets again today as the generals scrambled to cope with the cabinet's proffered resignation after bloodshed that has jolted plans for Egypt's first free election in decades.
In a stinging verdict on nine months of army control, rights group Amnesty International accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of brutality sometimes exceeding that of former president Hosni Mubarak.
Thousands of people defied tear gas wafting across Cairo's Tahrir Square, the hub of protests swelling since Friday into the gravest challenge yet to the generals who replaced Mubarak and who seem reluctant to relinquish their power and privilege.
Protesters in Tahrir carried an open coffin containing the white-shrouded body of one of the 36 people killed so far.
The army council, headed by a 76-year-old field marshal who served as Mubarak's defence minister for two decades, held talks with politicians on the crisis, in which at least 36 people have been killed and more than 1,250 wounded, medical officials say.
The United States, which gives Egypt's military $1.3 billion a year in aid, has called for restraint on all sides and urged Egypt to proceed with elections due to start on Monday despite the violence, a stance broadly echoed by many European leaders.
Protesters waving flags and singing skirmished with security forces in and around Tahrir Square, where banners read "Save Egypt from thieves and the military". As pungent clouds of tear gas set off stampedes, activists chanted "Stay, stay, stay".