23 Nov 2011

Protests in Egypt continue despite pledge

6:36 pm on 23 November 2011

Protesters continue to occupy Cairo's Tahrir Square despite a promise of a faster transition to civilian rule.

The head of Egypt's military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi made a statement on national television saying presidential elections will happen by July 2012, the BBC reports.

He says he accepts the resignation of the civilian Cabinet, which was offered on Tuesday.

"What he are witnessing now in the Egyptian streets about criticism of the armed forces and attempts to make us traitors were rejected fully," he says.

"We are going through an exceptional historical period. We do not seek power and we are only here to serve the nation and God."

Parliamentary elections due to be held next week will continue as scheduled, and a referendum on an immediate transfer of power will be organised if necessary.

The pledge came after days of clashes between protesters and security forces that have left about 30 people dead and many others injured.

But protesters in the square said the concessions were not enough. They want an immediate end to military rule.

Tens of thousands of people had been pouring into the square for a mass demonstration against the country's ruling military council.

The council has been in power since former President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in February.

Activists had called for a million people to occupy the square.

Prime Minister Essam Sharaf had earlier gone on television to appeal for calm from the demonstrators, saying the authorities were ready to meet the people's demands and they should go home.