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Military offers assurances to Egypt and neighbors

By Kareem Fahim

New York Times News Service

Published: Saturday, Feb. 12 2011 8:33 p.m. MST

An Egyptian soldier sweeps the street after moving an armored vehicle in Tahrir Square in downtown Cairo, Egypt , Saturday, Feb. 12, 2011. Cries of "Egypt is free" rang out and fireworks lit up the sky as hundreds of thousands danced, wept and prayed in joyful pandemonium after 18 days of peaceful pro-democracy protests forced President Hosni Mubarak to surrender power to the military, ending three decades of authoritarian rule.

Tara Todras-Whitehill, Associated Press

CAIRO — As a new era dawned in Egypt on Saturday, the army leadership sought to reassure Egyptians and the world that it would shepherd a transition to civilian rule and honor international commitments like the peace treaty with Israel.

Exultant and exhausted opposition leaders claimed their role in the country's future, pressing the army to lift the country's emergency law and release political prisoners and saying they would present their vision for the government. And they vowed to return to Tahrir Square next week to honor those who had died in the 18-day uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak after nearly 30 years of authoritarian rule.

In an announcement broadcast on state television, an army spokesman said Egypt would continue to abide by all of its international and regional treaties and the current civilian leadership would manage the country's affairs until the formation of a new government. But he did not discuss a timetable for any transfer of power, and it was unclear how and when talks with opposition figures would take place.

The army spokesman said the military was "aspiring to guarantee the peaceful transition of power within the framework of a free democratic system that allows an elected civilian power to rule the country, in order to build a free democratic state." The impact of Egypt's uprising rippled across the Arab world, as protesters turned out in Algeria, where the police arrested leading organizers, and in Yemen, where pro-government forces beat demonstrators with clubs.

The Palestinian leadership responded by announcing that it planned to hold presidential and parliamentary elections by September. And in Tunisia, which inspired Egypt's uprising, hundreds demonstrated to cheer Mubarak's ouster.

Adm. Mike Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, will travel to Jordan and Israel for talks as both countries deal with the reverberations from Egypt's revolution.

In Tahrir, or Liberation, Square, some members of the movement that toppled Mubarak vowed to continue their protests, saying that all their demands had not yet been met.

A long list included an end to the emergency law that allows detention without charges, the dissolution of the Parliament, seen as illegitimate, and for some of the protesters, the prosecution of Mubarak.

About 50 protesters stood in the square Saturday morning, as the military removed barricades and concertina wire on the periphery.

But the uprising's leading organizers, speaking at a news conference in central Cairo, asked protesters to leave the square.

The group, the Coalition of the Youth of the Revolution, which includes members of the April 6 Youth Movement, the Muslim Brotherhood Youth and young supporters of Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent opposition figure, said it had not yet talked with the military and that on Sunday it would lay out its road map for a transitional government.

The coalition said that Ahmed Zewail, a Nobel laureate in chemistry, and other respected figures would work as intermediaries between the youth group and the military.

''The power of the people changed the regime," said Gehan Shaaban, a group spokeswoman. "But we shouldn't trust the army. We should trust ourselves, the people of Egypt."

Again, there were signs that not all the protesters were willing to give up. During the news conference, a protester yelled: "We should all head to Tahrir and stay there, until we ourselves are sure that everything is going as planned! The government of Ahmed Shafiq has to go!" Shafiq is the prime minister. The woman's shouts brought the news conference to a close.

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