Hundreds of Egyptian police officers purged

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Egypt fired nearly 600 top police officers yesterday in an effort to cleanse the discredited and widely unpopular force, state television reported.

The Interior Minister, Mansour el-Issawi, announced the move, which meets a key demand by protesters camping out at Cairo's central Tahrir Square. The protesters want the police force to be purged of former president Hosni Mubarak's loyalists and officers involved in the killing of nearly 900 protesters during the uprising that toppled the regime in February.

Television reports said that, of the officers fired, 37 are facing charges of killing protesters. Among those dismissed were 505 major-generals and 82 brigadiers, the report said.

Egypt's state news agency said parliamentary elections that had been widely expected to be held in September will now take place later, possibly in November.

The delay is a nod to the demands of some of the protesters. Many of the political parties that arose from the uprising wanted to have the vote delayed so they could compete more effectively against better prepared and financed Islamists, such as the Muslim Brotherhood.

The military said it would draft a set of regulations for selecting the 100-member assembly that will write a new constitution. That could make it more difficult for any Islamist-led legislature to choose the body and thereby give the charter an Islamist slant.