Egypt military fends off Islamist critics

Reuters News
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Posted: Mar 25, 2012 12:28 PM
Egypt military fends off Islamist critics

CAIRO (Reuters) - The ruling army council on Sunday defended its handling of Egypt's political transition against withering attacks on the army-backed government by the Islamist-dominated parliament.

The Muslim Brotherhood, whose Freedom and Justice Party has the biggest bloc in parliament, described Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri's cabinet as a failure and criticized the army for continuing to support it, in a statement on Saturday.

The military took over more than a year ago after a popular uprising ended President Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule.

Parliament began steps this month to withdraw confidence from the government, although power to form any new cabinet lies with the army council that has said it will hand power to civilians by July 1 after a new president takes office.

"We understand that the government's performance may not satisfy public aspirations at this critical stage," the army said in a statement read on state television.

"But we emphasize that the nation's interest is our first concern and we will not spare any effort and will take any measures or decisions needed for the sake of the nation and its citizens," it said.

A state newspaper had said earlier that Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, who heads the ruling council, would deliver a statement. But an army source then said a statement would be issued and Tantawi would not speak.

Ganzouri's government has been criticized for failing to halt the slide in the shattered economy and for heavy-handed tactics in dealing with protests against its rule.

The Brotherhood said the cabinet of Ganzouri, who also served as prime minister under Mubarak in the 1990s, had been worse than its predecessors.

It said the army's backing for the government raised questions about whether it wanted to "abort the revolution" and also questioned whether the army could oversee a free and fair presidential vote, which starts in May.

The army dismissed the criticism, saying it would not be deterred from its mission to see the country through the transition and called for Egyptians to unite.

"Some are deluded that they have the ability to put pressure on the armed forces and the Supreme Council to prevent it from moving forward in its national mission to run the state's affairs during the transition," the army said.

(Reporting by Yasmine Saleh and Marwa Awad; Writing by Edmund Blair; Editing by Alistair Lyon)