After apology, Egypt’s military rejects quick end to its rule

The New York Times reports: Egyptian generals offered an unusual apology on Thursday for the killings of protesters in Tahrir Square, the iconic landmark of the country’s revolution, but rejected the demonstrators’ demands for an immediate end to military rule.

As violence around the square eased after five days of intense clashes, the military also insisted that parliamentary elections, scheduled for next Monday, would proceed as planned.

“We will not delay elections. This is the final word,” Gen. Mamdouh Shaheen, a member of the ruling military council told a news conference.

Maj. Gen. Mukhtar el-Mallah, another council member, told the news conference that the military would not relinquish power because to do so would be “a betrayal of the trust placed in our hands by the people.” Egyptians must focus on the elections, he said, not on street protests.

“We will not relinquish power because of a slogan-chanting crowd,” he said, according to The Associated Press, “Being in power is not a blessing. It is a curse. It’s a very heavy responsibility.”

On what had been the front line of the confrontation near the square, army troops in black helmets and visors replaced the police — reviled by many protesters — and a crane lowered cement barricades behind a line of coiled barbed wire to separate the protesters from the Interior Ministry building, near the library of the American University in Cairo.

“The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces presents its regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt’s loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square,” two generals said in a statement on a Facebook page. “The council also offers its condolences to the families of the martyrs across Egypt.”

The message struck an apparently conciliatory tone as the ruling military commanders seek to defuse the crisis in time for the elections. But thousands of people remained in Tahrir Square, many demanding the ouster of Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the de facto leader and a longtime colleague of the deposed former president, Hosni Mubarak.

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