Egypt's ruling military council has appointed former prime minister Kamal al-Ganzouri to lead a transitional government, and said elections would go ahead next week as planned, state media reported late Thursday.

The previous civilian cabinet resigned earlier this week amid violent protests calling for an immediate transfer of power to a civilian government.

Al-Ganzouri, 78, was prime minister under President Hosni Mubarak from 1996 to 1999.

Many demonstrators remained in and around Cairo's Tahrir square early Friday, although apparently fewer than in previous days.

Thirty-eight people have been killed in violent clashes with the police since last Friday, the Health Ministry said.

The military rulers, who took power in February after the overthrow of Mubarak, said they would hand over power as soon as possible to an elected civilian government, at a joint press conference with the election commission in Cairo earlier Thursday.

It was all the more important to stick to the scheduled parliamentary elections, due to roll out in three phases ending in January, the committee said. A new president was to be elected by the end of June.
Al-Ganzouri is to put together a transitional government to rule for the few months until then.

The committee reportedly had their work cut out finding a suitable and willing candidate. Many politicians were keeping an eye on future cabinet posts or even the presidency, and have been reluctant to accept any role in the transitional government.

Al-Ganzouri resigned in 1999 as privatization and liberalization initiatives were losing momentum, and a currency crisis shook the confidence of foreign investors. Parliamentarians accused him of an autocratic leadership style.

He reappeared in public after the mass protests started in January, to speak out in support of political change.