Egypt's ruling generals said in comments published Tuesday they would not allow extremist groups to take over the country and that they prefer to see a moderate religious ideology prevail in the mainly Muslim nation.
The comments by three members of the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces appeared designed to calm growing fears that militant Islamic groups now operating openly will try to impose their strict interpretation of Islam on Egypt.
They also appeared to serve as a warning to militant groups against taking advantage of the country's precarious security and the freedoms allowed after the February ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak to break the law.
The comments were made during a meeting Monday between the generals and editors of national newspapers and Egypt's official news agency.
The military took over the country when Mubarak stepped down on Feb. 11 in the face of a popular 18-day uprising that ended his 29-year rule. The military has since relaxed restrictions on the freedom of expression and the formation of political parties. They also allowed Islamist groups to operate openly for the first time in decades.
Parliamentary elections are scheduled to be held in September and there are growing fears among moderate and secular Egyptians as well as the Christian minority _ about 10 percent of the country's more than 80 million people _ that Islamist groups could dominate the vote or win enough seats to influence policies.