Egypt’s Ruling Council Calls for Crisis Talks with Political Forces

Posted November 21st, 2011 at 7:15 pm (UTC-5)
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Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces is calling for crisis talks with the country's political forces, a day after the interim civilian cabinet submitted its resignation following three days of anti-military protests and a fierce security crackdown that killed at least 24 people.

In a late-night statement, the military council urged calm and called for a national dialogue “to look into the reasons behind the current crisis and ways to resolve it as quickly as possible.”

The statement, carried by Egypt's state news agency MENA, also voiced its “deep sorrow over the deaths during the recent painful events,” and said the council ordered security forces to take all necessary measures to protect the demonstrators.

MENA said the civilian cabinet of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf, which resigned late Sunday, will continue to perform its duties until the military council decides whether to accept the resignations.

The White House said Monday it was “deeply concerned” about the violence and urged restraint by all sides. U.N. secretary-general Ban Ki-moon deplored the loss of life and called on authorities to guarantee the protection of human rights and civil liberties for all Egyptians, including the right to peaceful protest.”

Protests continued across the country Monday, including Cairo's central Tahrir Square, in what some are calling “Egypt's second revolution.”

Clashes also erupted near Egypt's Interior Ministry. Reuters quotes an army official as saying the ministry requested protection against the protesters, who want the head of the ruling military to swiftly hand over power to a civilian government.

Many of the demonstrators have been chanting “The people want to topple the field marshal,” a reference to Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the ruling Supreme Council. The council took power in February when a popular uprising ousted autocratic President Hosni Mubarak.

Pro-democracy activists have criticized the council for setting guidelines for a new constitution that would keep some military affairs beyond civilian control. The activists also want the military rulers to stop putting civilians on trial in military courts.

The military-led government held an emergency meeting Sunday and promised to begin staggered parliamentary elections as planned on November 28.