Defiant Tantawi says no pressurising the Army

Egyptians, in their thousands, have returned to the Tahrir Square, demanding that the ruling military council cede power immediately to a civilian government, nine months after an uprising ousted Hosni Mubarak. A major part of the public angst is directed against the continued control of Tantawi, who was Mubarak's defence minister for two decades.

Tantawi, however, remained defiant, telling newspersons at a press conference that the elections will be held on schedule and that no one will be allowed to pressure the armed forces.

With the protesters rejecting the appointment of Kamal Al-Ganzouri as the new prime minister, former IAEA chief and presidential hopeful Mohammad Elbaradei evinced interest in taking up the lead in forming a national salvation government.

ElBaradei, who met Tantawi earlier in the day, said he was "ready to renounce the idea of being a candidate in the presidential election if officially asked to form a cabinet".

ElBaradei said he was "willing to respond to the demands of the youth of the revolution and the political forces calling for a national salvation government that represents all the national forces".

Tantawi, however, asked Elbaradei and another leading politician Amr Moussa to support newly-appointed prime minister Al-Ganzouri, 78, who has earlier too served as premier during Mubarak's regime.

Political activists called for another mass protest today to express their rejection of Al Ganzouri's appointment.

They also demanded the trial of those found responsible for the deaths of over 40 people since clashes broke out on November 19 in a week of deadly confrontations between protesters and police.

They also want a complete overhaul of the interior ministry, which they believe is still dominated by Mubarak-era officials.

The confrontation between the Army and the protesters refused to end even as the country prepared for its first parliamentary elections since the fall of Mubarak.

Egypt will go to polls tomorrow for the first round of elections that will be held over a period of three months.

Two days of voting from tomorrow will take place in the main cities of Cairo and Alexandria as well as Fayum, Luxor, Port Said, Damietta, Kafr el-Sheikh and the Red Sea province.

Other cities and regions will follow on December 14 and January 3.

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