25 Nov 2011

US calls for civilian rule in Egypt as protesters mass

The United States urges the Egyptian military to give way to a civilian government after another day of mass protest saw thousands descend on Tahrir Square. Jonathan Rugman reports from Cairo.

The White House press secretary Jay Carney said the Egyptian military should give way “as soon as possible” to civilian rule.

His comments mark a significant hardening of the rhetoric from the United States against Egypt‘s generals after days of protests and clashes in the country in which 41 people have died.

Mr Carney said: “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.”

Washington has also called for an independent investigation into the circumstances of the deaths.

Full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place. Jay Carney, White House spokesman

Mr Carney added: “The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately.

“Egypt has overcome challenges before and will do so again. The United States will continue to stand with the Egyptian people as they build a democracy worthy of Egypt’s great history.”

Friday prayers

The US intervention comes after another day of protests, in which tens of thousands of anti-military protesters assembled for the so-called “million person” march in central Cairo, three days before the country’s elections.

The rally followed a fragile truce agreed between protesters and security forces. Egypt’s military ruling council also agreed some political concessions on Thursday, after five days of clashes which have turned parts of Cairo into a battlezone and left thousands injured from tear gas.

The military council – the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (Scaf) tasked former prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri with forming a new cabinet, according to Egyptian media reports.

Mr Ganzouri, who headed the government from 1996 to 1999 under the deposed president, Hosni Mubarak, agreed in principle to lead a national government, the state newspaper Al-Ahram reported.

The ruling council has also pledged to continue with elections, due to be held next Monday, despite the violence. The military has been in charge in Egypt since President Hosni Mubarak stepped down in February after a wave of popular protests, part of the Arab Spring movement which swept the region.