Egypt Braces for Fresh Protests Ahead of Elections

Posted November 27th, 2011 at 3:55 am (UTC-5)
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Egyptian activists have called for more mass rallies across the country Sunday, one day before the start of parliamentary elections that have been overshadowed by political turmoil and the continued threat of violence.

A number of the revolutionary youth groups leading the protests have demanded the formation of an interim civilian government headed by opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, with deputies from across the political spectrum. The proposed civilian body would replace the ruling military council in supervising Egypt's transition to democracy.

ElBaradei said Saturday he would abandon his bid for Egypt's presidency if officially asked to lead such a government.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces held talks Saturday with ElBaradei and another presidential hopeful, former Arab League chief Amr Moussa. Both said only that they discussed ways to end the current crisis.

The meetings came as nearly 10,000 people packed Cairo's Tahrir Square to continue protests against Egypt's interim military rulers and the appointment of caretaker Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri, seen as an extension of the old regime.

Security forces fired tear gas at stone-throwing demonstrators.

European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton condemned the violence Saturday and urged Egypt to maintain the rule of law.

The vote due to begin Monday is the first since massive street protests forced former President Hosni Mubarak to resign in February. The outcome is likely to be viewed as suspect given the growing unrest and the suspension of many candidates' campaigns in solidarity with the protesters.

The complex, drawn-out polls to parliament's lower house conclude in early January.

Separately, three American students arrested during the current wave of protests arrived home in the United States Saturday, three days after an Egyptian court ordered their release.

Derrick Sweeney, Luke Gates and Gregory Porter attended the American University in Cairo and were arrested Sunday on the roof of a building near Tahrir Square. Officials accused them of throwing firebombs at security forces who were fighting protesters.