CAIRO – Egypt's military ruler warned on Sunday of "extremely grave" consequences if the turbulent nation does not pull through its current crisis.
Tantawi's warning came as thousands of protesters were filling Cairo's Tahrir Square for another massive demonstration to push for him and other generals on the ruling military council he heads to immediately step down in favor of a civilian presidential council and a "national salvation" government to run the country's affairs until a president is elected.
Thousands in Tahrir Square (Photo: AP)
"We will not allow troublemakers to meddle in the elections," he said. "Egypt is at a crossroads - either we succeed politically, economically and socially or the consequences will be extremely grave and we will not allow that," he said.
The military took the reins of power when Hosni Mubarak was ousted in February by a popular uprising, but it has come under intense criticism for most of the past nine months for its failure to restore security, stop the rapid worsening of the economy or introduce the far-reaching reforms called for by the youth groups behind Mubarak's fall and the ongoing protest movement.
Sunday's rally falls on the ninth day of a revival of the protest movement that toppled Mubarak. At least 41 protesters, mostly in Cairo, have been killed in the latest protests and more than 2,000 have been wounded.
Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi (Photo: EPA)
Representatives of 24 youth groups organizing the rally have vowed in a statement posted on the internet that they would not leave the square until military generals transfer power to a "national salvation" government led by ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace laureate and presidential hopeful.
ElBaradei said in a statement issued by his office late Saturday that he is ready to steer the country out
of its current political crisis.
The Sunday rally, dubbed "Legitimacy of the Revolution," comes one day before the start of voting in the first parliamentary elections since the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. The elections will be held over a three-month period.
The country's most influential and organized political Islamic group, the Muslim Brotherhood, stayed away from the street protests and called on voters to head to polls. Islamists are expected win big in elections, have a parliament majority.
The parliament's main duty is to elect a 100-member committee to draft the country's new constitution.
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