By Marwa Awad and Dina Zayed
CAIRO (Reuters) - The judicial committee supervising Egypt's first presidential election since Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year said Sunday it had yet to finalize a date for the vote, although an election official said it would be in the first week of June.
The committee had been expected to announce a date on Sunday, but judges on the committee told a news conference the decision was being delayed as they worked out how best to ensure Egyptians abroad would have enough time to vote.
The army which took over from Mubarak in February last year has faced street protests and widespread demands they hand power to civilians sooner than the end-June deadline they had set themselves. Judges committed to meet the army's deadline.
Farouk Soltan, the head of the committee, said the date would be set before March 10, when candidates can submit their formal nominations. The closing date for nominations would be April 8.
Several hopefuls have already announced they plan to run for office, including former Arab League chief Amr Moussa and ex-Muslim Brotherhood member, Abdel Moneim Abol Fotoh. The current Arab League Secretary General Nabil Elaraby is mooted as a consensus candidate, but he has said he has no such plans.
"The committee has decided to postpone announcing the schedule for elections until it can reach a solution that will allow Egyptians abroad to vote in a manner that will make their participation real," Soltan said.
This follows hiccups in voting for the estimated 8 million Egyptians living abroad during the parliamentary poll. Many complained they did not have time to register and diplomats said they were not given enough time for the count.
Egypt has a population of 82 million.
PRESIDENT BY END-JUNE
The Egyptian foreign ministry has requested voters abroad have a two-week period to cast their ballot and counting take place over a week. The committee said it was considering this request.
"The committee will very soon determine the schedule for the presidential elections, while confirming the door will open for nominations on March 10," Soltan told the news conference, adding voting and counting will be completed by the end of June.
Government ministers had suggested the election could be held sooner, with some suggesting late May. But Soltan told reporters Sunday only his committee could set a date or give details of the race.
Committee member Ahmed Shams el-Din had earlier told Reuters the vote would be in June but did not give a precise date.
"Presidential elections begin in the first week of June and the president will be sworn in by the end of June," he said. "Any run-offs will take place within the month of June, and by July we will have an Egyptian president."
Many analysts see Moussa as the front-runner but say much will depend on what kind of backing he can secure from the Muslim Brotherhood, which emerged as the biggest bloc after a parliamentary vote. Some politicians say they want a candidate who will also have the army's nod of approval.
Egypt has been ruled by military officers for six decades.
Moussa, a popular former foreign minister under Mubarak, has said he has reached out to Islamists.
Elaraby, a well-respected and experienced diplomat, has been spoken of by the media and some parties as a potential challenger who could unite political factions wary of backing any candidate with links to Mubarak's old era.
"I have no intention to run for the presidency, under any circumstances," Elaraby told journalists Sunday, after newspapers reported negotiations between parties to back him.
Under new rules approved in a referendum last year, presidents will be limited to two consecutive four-year terms.
Mubarak was ousted shortly before the end of his fifth six-year term. Most of his terms were secured via single-candidate referendums. In 2005 he ran in Egypt's first multi-candidate race, but rights groups and others said the rules for that poll blocked any realistic challenge to the incumbent.
(Additional reporting by Omar Fahmy and Ayman Samir; Writing by Dina Zayed and Tamim Elyan; Editing by Sophie Hares)