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Egyptian Protesters Call For 'Million-Man March' Against Military Rule


An Egyptian protester throws back a tear-gas canister on the third day of clashes with security forces at Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 21.

An Egyptian protester throws back a tear-gas canister on the third day of clashes with security forces at Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 21.

Thousands of Egyptians are converging on Cairo's Tahrir Square in response to a call by activists for a "million-man march" after an offer by the civilian cabinet to resign failed to quell unrest.

The protesters, now in their fourth day of a demonstration at the central square in Cairo, are demanding that the ruling military authorities make a quick handover of power to a civilian administration.

The military agenda suggests a presidential election may not take place till late 2012 or early 2013, leaving the army with sweeping executive powers until then.

Many politicians and demonstrators in Tahrir Square want a presidential election by April, immediately after elections to the upper and lower house of parliament are completed.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood announced on November 22 that it would participate in talks with the country's military rulers aimed at ending deadly clashes that threaten to derail the legislative elections that are scheduled to begin next week.

The talks will include the Party of Freedom and Justice, which is affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood.

Cabinet Resignation 'Not Enough'

The crowd at Tahrir Square at midday on November 22 was nowhere close to the size of the sustained protests that brought down longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak in February.

But correspondents estimate the protest in Cairo drew more than 10,000 people overnight after at least 24 people were killed and more than 1,200 wounded in three days of political violence.

A protester is carried away during clashes with security forces Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 21.

A protester is carried away during clashes with security forces Tahrir Square in Cairo on November 21.

The rally was called despite the offer on November 21 by the military-appointed cabinet to resign -- a move that was not immediately accepted by the ruling military council. The cabinet will continue to govern until the military council accepts the resignation.

Many demonstrators are angry about efforts by the cabinet to push through constitutional amendments that would enshrine powers for the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, the ruling military council headed by Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi.

The constitutional principles proposed by the army-picked cabinet would shield the army from civilian oversight and give it broad national-security powers.

'Marshal Tantawi Should Resign'

In Tahrir Square overnight, protester Hazem Mahmud said many Egyptians saw the government as having little real power of its own. He said demonstrators wanted to bring an end to the grip on power held by the military council.

"The most important thing is the resignation of Marshal Tantawi, [his deputy] Osama Annan, and all members of the military council," Mahmud said. "Then, the resignation of the government comes second. That is all we need."

Protester Taymour Salah said demonstrators regretted they had stopped their rallies in February when Mubarak was ousted -- a move that left the military council in a position to control the country until democratic elections.

Salah also said the cabinet's offer to resign did not go far enough to meet protesters' demands that the military hand over control to civilians.

"It was a useless government, Field Marshal [Tantawi] should resign. We are tired of this situation," he said. "The army is responsible for all of our current problems. We will not leave this place again."

Violence Continues

Meanwhile, violence was continuing for a fourth day at Tahrir Square with police and soldiers firing tear gas and rubber bullets at protesters.

Police also fired tear gas overnight at demonstrators in the city of Alexandria.

In a statement released on November 22, Amnesty International said the Egyptian military authorities had "completely failed" to protect human rights.

The human rights group accused the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces of using the same kind of oppressive tactics as Mubarak's ousted regime. Amnesty also said it appeared that the aspirations of the Egyptian revolution "have been crushed."
United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon has also expressed concern about the bloodshed, calling for the Egyptian authorities to "guarantee" the protection of human rights and civil liberties.

The violence and unrest comes just days before Egyptians are scheduled to begin voting on November 28 in parliamentary elections -- the first polls since Mubarak was toppled in February.

The military council insists that the voting will go forward as scheduled.

compiled from agency reports

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