Tensions Feared as Egypt's Military Faces Biggest Protest Yet

Two days after Friday’s biggest protest yet against the military government in Egypt, clashes between police and protesters were feared yet again as a rally was planned for Sunday following the killing of an unarmed protester in Cairo.

Anger among protesters was visible as they were preparing for another protest at Tahrir Square Sunday, a day after Central Security forces killed a man who was part of a sit-in in front of the cabinet building, according to local newspaper Al-Masry Al-Youm.

According to Egyptian Health Ministry, 41 people died last week in violence between police and protesters even as the first parliamentary elections after the fall of President Hosni Mubarak in February are scheduled to begin Monday.

On Friday, about 100,000 people gathered at Tahrir Square, in what is being seen as the largest protest against the military rulers yet, demanding that power be handed over to a civilian government.

At a time when public anger was evident against a proposed provision seeking special powers for the military in the new constitution, the military government on Friday appointed Kamal al-Ganzouri, who was prime minister under Mubarak, as the executive head of “a national salvation government” to replace the cabinet that resigned last week in the wake of the killings.

Saturday’s sit-in, extension of the Friday’s rally, was to protest the appointment of al-Ganzouri. The protesters chanted “The people want to bring down Field Marshal,” “Interior Ministry people are thugs,” and “Down with the military rule,” as they warned al-Ganzouri against entering the cabinet headquarters.

President Barack Obama has condemned the military rulers. “The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately,” the White House said in a statement. “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.”

The United States gives $1.3 billion in aid to the military annually.

“We need a government that comes from the square,” the local daily quoted a pregnant protester, Ghada Mohamed Naguib, as saying. “It should be inclusive and there is consensus about the names being presented. We’re here to help grant this government the relevant powers it needs and SCAF [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] needs to be removed from political power with all its authorities transferred to the salvation government.”

The SCAF took over in the wake of the fall of Mubarak, who in his final decision as president transferred powers to a council of 20 men from the armed forces. The military-led government claimed to be with the people initially, but in recent months the council has been criticized for being against the spirit of the revolution.

Presidential hopeful Mohamed ElBaradei, supported by many protesters, has said he is ready to lead a government of national unity. “The political forces and groups stressed that the only way out of the crisis is to form a national coalition government with full powers to manage the transitional period until presidential elections are held,” his team said in a statement.

The statement added that if ElBaradei was asked to lead the government he would even be willing to give up his presidential run “so as to be completely neutral in the interim period.”

Ali, another protester, was quoted as saying, “The issue is that people are not considering the square as the one and only solution, it is plan A and the elections are plan B. There should be no plan B, you have to bet on the revolution.”

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