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An Egyptian army officer tries to communicate with protesters across a barricade near Tahrir Sq, Cairo. AP Photo/Tara Todras-Whitehill/PA Images

Egyptian army apologises for civilian deaths, but holds on to power

The ruling military council said they would not be stepping down and insisted today that elections will go ahead as planned.

THE EGYPTIAN ARMY has apologised for the dozens of civilian deaths resulting from clashes between riot police and political protesters this week and pledged to prosecute those responsible.

However, the ruling military council said it would not be resigning in line with protesters demands, but will stay on until being replaced through national elections.

The military has insisted that the parliamentary elections scheduled for 28 November will go ahead as planned despite this week’s violence. Protesters had called on the council to immediately step down and hand its power over to an interim civilian council.

Council member Major General Mukhtar el-Mallah said today that immediate resignation would be a “betrayal of the trust placed in our hands by the people” and added that “we will not relinquish power because a slogan-chanting crowd said so”.

“Being in power is not a blessing,” he said. “It is a curse. It’s a very heavy responsibility.”

The scene at Tahrir Square quietened down today after five days of heavy clashes between riot police and demonstrators reluctant to leave the square until their demands were met. Protesters wanted the immediate resignation of the ruling military, which has been in power since Mubarak’s ousting in February, and they wanted the army to back down on plans to introduce constitutional protections against civilian oversight to the military.

Head of the Egyptian armed forces Hussein Tantawi said yesterday that the military is not looking “at all at the presidency or at power” and doesn’t care who is elected. He also said that the deadline for a presidential election would be brought forward to July 2012.

The Egyptian cabinet resigned earlier this week.

- Additional reporting by the AP

In pictures: Fifth day of violence rocks Cairo, Alexandria >

Read more: Video, photos: Egyptian military leader says election will go ahead as violence continues >

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