Bela Szandelszky, Associated Press
CAIRO — Egyptian security forces clashed with protesters camped outside the Cabinet building Saturday, leaving one man dead, as tensions rose two days ahead of parliamentary elections being held despite mass demonstrations against military rule.
The violence occurred as a wave of protests against military rule was given extra impetus by the Egyptian military's decision on Friday to appoint a Prime Minister Kamal el-Ganzouri who served under deposed President Hosni Mubarak.
The Obama administration has increased pressure on Egypt's military rulers, who took over from Mubarak, to transfer power to civilian leaders throwing its support behind protesters massed on Cairo's central Tahrir Square for more than a week.
More than 100,000 demonstrators packed into the square on Friday in the biggest rally since the current unrest began. They rejected el-Ganzouri's appointment and presented an alternative to el-Ganzouri. By midday Saturday, the crowd size dwindled to some 5,000.
Twenty-four protest groups, including two political parties, have announced they are creating their own "national salvation" government to be headed by Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei with deputies from across the political spectrum to which they demanded the military hand over power.
Egyptian state TV said that the head of the ruling military council Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi met separately with ElBaradei and another presidential hopeful Amr Moussa, who was the former Arab League chief, on Saturday, but it gave no details.
Hundreds also set up camp outside the Cabinet building, spending the night in blankets and tents to prevent the 78-year-old politician from entering to take up his new post. Early Saturday, they clashed with security forces who allegedly tried to disperse them.
An Associated Press cameraman saw three police troop carriers and an armored vehicle firing tear gas as they were being chased from the site by rock-throwing protesters.
The man who was killed was run over by one of the vehicles, but there were conflicting accounts about the circumstances surrounding the death.
The Interior Ministry expressed regret for the death of the protester, identified as Ahmed Serour, and said it was an accident. Police didn't intend to storm the sit-in but were merely heading to the Interior Ministry headquarters, located behind the Cabinet building, when they came under attack by angry protesters throwing firebombs, it said in a statement. The ministry claimed security forces were injured and the driver of one of the vehicles panicked and ran over the protester.
One of the protesters, Mohammed Zaghloul, 21, said he saw six security vehicles heading to their site.
"It became very tense, rock throwing started and the police cars were driving like crazy," he said. "Police threw one tear gas canister and all of a sudden we saw our people carrying the body of a man who was bleeding really badly."
Officials say more than 40 people have been killed across the country since Nov. 19, when the unrest began after a small sit-in by protesters injured during the 18-day uprising that ousted Mubarak was violently broken up by security forces. That led to days of clashes, which ended with a truce on Thursday. It wasn't clear if the melee on Saturday was an isolated incident or part of new violence by security forces trying to clear the way for the new prime minister, and protesters frustrated by what they believe are the military's efforts to perpetuate the old regime.
"El-Ganzouri was pulled out of his grave. He was a dead man," said a 39-year-old employee Ahmad Anas as chants against the head of the military council rang outside the Cabinet building: "Tantawi and el-Ganzouri are choking me." A banner hanging over the building gates read: "closed until execution of field marshal."
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