Crowds Swell in Cairo as New PM Appointed

A general view of Egyptian protesters during a march in Tahrir Square in Cairo November 25, 2011. (REUTERS/Ahmed Jadallah)

Crowds Swell in Cairo as New PM Appointed

Thousands return to Tahrir Square as military council names Mubarak-era prime minister to head new government.

Cairo's Tahrir Square is once again filling with protesters despite reports that the country's military rulers has appointed a new prime minister in an apparent concession to activists' demands for a civilian government.

State media on Friday named Kamal al-Ganzuri as the country's new prime minister as protesters in the capital called for another "million-man march" in protests dubbed "the Friday of the last chance".

Ganzuri is an economist who previously served as Egyptian prime minister under former president Hosni Mubarak between 1996 and 1999.

After the mass uprising earlier this year, Ganzouri distanced himself from Mubarak in a television interview, prompting several activists to recommend him as a future presidential candidate.

His appointment was reported by private media on Thursday night, prompting raucous jeers and chants of "We don't want him" in the square.

As Ganzuri's appointment was announced, an influential imam led thousands of worshippers in prayer in Tahrir Square, calling on the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces to hand power to a "national salvation government".

Sheikh Mazhar Shahin said protesters would remain in the square, the symbolic heart of rallies that toppled Mubarak in February, until their demands are met.

Since last Saturday, streets near Tahrir have become battle zones with stone-throwing protesters fighting police firing tear gas, pellets and rubber bullets, although a truce on Thursday calmed the violence. At least 41 people have been killed and more than 3,200 injured in the clashes in Cairo and other cities.

Military apology

SCAF has apologised for the deaths of demonstrators and pledged to hold parliamentary elections scheduled for November 28 on time, despite a push from activists and some political parties to postpone them.

The SCAF "presents its regrets and deep apologies for the deaths of martyrs from among Egypt's loyal sons during the recent events in Tahrir Square", it said in a statement on its Facebook page on Thursday.

It also called on "honourable citizens" to protect the square, separate the protesters from interior ministry riot police and arrest those who are found suspicious, raising concerns among some that the announcement had given license for street violence.

The military also began asserting a firmer street presence, promising to help police secure the country during the voting and erecting a two-metre-tall concrete barricade on Mohamed Mahmoud Street.

The street leads towards the interior ministry and has been the focal point of violence between riot police and crowds of young men.

The military rulers say they will transfer power to civilians, but that the process should not be rushed to avoid chaos.

The US, long a supporter of Egypt's military, called on the generals on Friday to step aside "as soon as possible" and give real power to the new cabinet "immediately".

"Full transfer of power to a civilian government must take place in a just and inclusive manner that responds to the legitimate aspirations of the Egyptian people, as soon as possible," White House spokesman Jay Carney said in a statement.

"The United States strongly believes that the new Egyptian government must be empowered with real authority immediately."

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