Egypt Military Offers to Speed Up Power Transfer in Meet With Political Parties

Party heads say Supreme Council of Armed Forces agree to July 2012 regime change; parties power to be transferred on April 29, probe into the death of 36 protesters in last 4 days.

The leader of the Egyptian military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, met with heads of political partied on Tuesday in an attempt to hand over the reins of leadership to an elected government.

According to reports, the military council agreed to move up the regime change to July 2012, while political parties have said the reins should be handed over on April 29.

Another demand made by parties is for an independent investigation committee to look into the events of the last four days, during which 36 protesters were killed.

Abu al-alla Madi and Mohammed Selim el-Awa, two politicians who attended a five-hour crisis meeting with the military rulers, said Tuesday that the council also accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's government and will form a "national salvation" Cabinet to replace it.

According to reports, the sides agreed on three major issues in the meeting: The formation of an emergency transitional cabinet; that parliamentary elections would not be moved from their original date; and that presidential elections would take place before the end of June, 2012.

The announcement was immediately rejected by tens of thousands of protesters in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

"We are not leaving, he leaves," they chanted, referring to military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

Previously, the military rulers had floated late next year or early 2013 as the timetable for transferring power.

Cairo protests - AP - November 22 2011

A senior Egyptian journalist told Haaretz that Tantawi’s resignation and failure to hand over the ruling powers will lead to total chaos, a result no one wants. “The pressure now is for the military council to agree to a set and close date for transferring power,” he said.

Tens of thousands were amassed in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday to demand the military set a date for presidential elections to enable the quick transfer of power to a civilian government.

The military has not yet said whether it accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's parliament, which was appointed by the council.
The four days of mass demonstrations have been accompanied by clashes between protesters and security forces, with at least 36 people killed and more than 1,250 wounded in the violence.

In a stinging verdict on nine months of army control, London-based rights group Amnesty International accused the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) of brutality sometimes exceeding that of former President Hosni Mubarak.

Thousands of people defied tear gas wafting across Cairo's Tahrir Square, the focus of protests that have swelled since Friday into the gravest challenge yet to the generals who replaced Mubarak and who seem reluctant to relinquish military power and privilege.

Youth groups have called for a mass turnout later in the day to press demands for the military to give way to civilian rule now, rather than according to its own ponderous timetable, which could keep it in power until late 2012 or early 2013.

Security forces put up barbed wire on streets leading from Tahrir to the Interior Ministry, but an army officer on the spot said protesters had repeatedly removed the makeshift barriers.