Egyptian army delivers ultimatum to Tahrir protesters

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The Independent Online

Egypt's military delivered an ultimatum to dozens of committed protesters in Tahrir Square, nerve-centre of a movement that toppled Hosni Mubarak, to leave and let life get back to normal or face arrest.

Soldiers scuffled with protesters on Sunday as the army ensured traffic flowed through the central Cairo square. Some protesters insisted on staying, determined to see through their demands for civilian rule and a free, democratic system.

"We have half an hour left, we are cordoned by military police," protester Yahya Saqr told Reuters. "We are discussing what to do now," he said, adding that a senior officer "told us we have one hour to empty the square or we will be arrested."

Protest leaders say Egyptians will demonstrate again if their demands for radical change are not met. They plan a huge "Victory March" on Friday to celebrate the revolution, and perhaps remind the military of the power of the street.

Egypt's generals are asserting their command over the country following the overthrow of Mubarak.

Having suspended the constitution and dissolved parliament on Sunday, moves welcomed by those who saw both institutions as perverted to Mubarak's personal ends, the military council was planning to issue orders intended to stifle further disruption and get the country back to work, a military source said.

Disgruntled employees are already pressing for better deals. The interim military rulers called a Bank Holiday on Monday after disruption in the banking sector and there is a national holiday on Tuesday to mark the Prophet Mohammad's birthday.

Free and fair elections will be held under a revised constitution, the military said, but it gave no timetable beyond saying that it would be in charge "for a temporary period of six months or until the end of elections to the upper and lower houses of parliament, and presidential elections".

Nor did it detail what civilian or other participation there would be in amending basic laws during the transition. The cabinet appointed by Mubarak last month will go on governing, reporting to the army chiefs.