December 5, 2013
Egypt army chief calls for quick transition to election
Egypt's army chief called for a quick transition to elections in order to restore stability to the country, while supporters of the Islamist president he ousted, Mohamed Morsi, staged daring protests urging an end to "military government".
Egypt has been gripped by turmoil since the army removed Morsi on July 3 following mass protests against his rule.
Political tensions and a sharp rise in attacks by Islamist militants have decimated tourism and investment in Egypt, the most populous Arab state, which depends heavily on US aid.
Speaking to soldiers and police officers at a seminar, army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi "called on everyone to be truly aware of the size of the problems facing society, and which necessitate speeding up the end of the transitional phase," the army spokesman's official Facebook page said.
In a reference to Morsi's year in power, Sisi condemned what he said were attempts to distort "a ruling experience that failed to meet the demands of the Egyptian people" and portray it as a "religious battle and a war on Islam."
After toppling Morsi, the military installed an interim government and announced a "road map" for a transition to a new election. The Muslim Brotherhood accused the military of staging a coup that removed Egypt's first freely elected president.
Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said last week that the transitional phase of government should end "by next spring."
Since Morsi's downfall, security forces have killed hundreds of pro-Morsi protesters, and senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood have been arrested, actions that drastically reduced the size of protests.
Morsi supporters protested in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday for the first time since the army forced him from office in July, risking the wrath of security forces who had been keeping a close eye on the area.
About 100 protesters gathered in the square, chanting, "Down with the military government!"
"We are a country not a military camp," the Morsi supporters shouted in Tahrir, which was the rallying point in 2011 for hundreds of thousands of people against former President Hosni Mubarak. "We want freedom!" they said.
Shortly after arriving in Tahrir, passersby attacked them with rocks. Riot police then moved in and dispersed the crowd.