Excerpts from Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi's speech
Egypt's military rule Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi had responded to mass protests in Cairo by promising to speed up the pace of reform and bring forward the country's presidential elections.
Here are some key excerpts from his speech, broadcast on national television.
On the January revolution
In the great 25 January revolution, the people rose up to demand freedom, democracy and social freedom. The armed forces, which are an indispensable part of the people, have taken a national decision that they should be appreciated for siding with the people, embodying unity between the army and the people and being a role model for world revolutions to follow.
The Scaf [Supreme Council of the Armed Forces] has borne the responsibility of running the country during this transitional stage which followed the former regime. A series of reform measures have been started on a path towards democracy. We have pledged repeatedly that the armed forces will not be an alternative to the legitimacy sought by the people.
We did not have the ambition to ascend to the throne of power and we did not seek this, but we realised beforehand that politics entails differences in viewpoints... We have been and we are still implementing our first decision since the 25 January revolution as we did not fire one bullet at the chest of any Egyptian citizen. The ancient Egyptian military has an established doctrine that it is an inherent part of the Egyptian people whose task is to protect the nation. We cannot allow standing against the people.
Our priority at the start of this transitional stage was to restore security to the Egyptian street. You all remember what the security situation was like during this period. We offered all possible support to the interior ministry in order to raise its efficiency and increase its capability to preserve security within the context of law. Maybe some people were not satisfied about the ministry's performance, but its efficiency has been gradually improving despite the attempts to weaken its enthusiasm and break its will.
Running the country during the transitional period has not been as easy as some people might think... It's easy to talk, but less easy to act. The Egyptian economy is noticeably declining. Whenever the situation moves towards stability, something happens that drags us backwards. But we in the armed forces - the school of patriotism - are used to confronting hardships and we are trained how to be patient until we reach our goal by thorough planning and determination to succeed. Some people tried to drag us to confrontations and we bore hardships, offences and defamation. We did not respond to such attempts and we have been and we still are committed to self-restraint to the maximum degree.
On parliamentary elections
On day one, we embarked on planning a political process that ends with handing over power to an elected civil authority with a free democratic will. A referendum was held to amend some constitutional articles, a constitutional declaration was issued, and a number of laws were enacted for political reform. We are committed to the track that most political forces agree on. It was decided to begin the process of establishing a parliamentary institution through fair democratic elections.
However, as we approached the election date, unwarranted tension and differences escalated. The Scaf only cares about the interest of the nation. It is not interested in who wins the elections or who will assume the presidency. This is the will of the people... After the claims of some people that the Scaf is being slow in handing over power, a definite timetable was announced for this on the track decided by the people though the March referendum. We have said over and over again that we stand on an equal footing with everybody and we do not take sides... And despite this, some parties accuse us of being biased.
On accusations against the military
We have said repeatedly that we have stopped referring civilians to military trials, except in cases subject to the military law... What we are witnessing today in the Egyptian street and some media outlets regarding accusations against the Scaf, attempts at defamation and accusations of treason - we reject completely. We shoulder national responsibility in exceptional circumstances. We do not seek to rule... If this continues, it will negatively affect the morale of the courageous armed forces which have played a role that will be remembered in history books.
On the cabinet resigation
I have decided the following: accepting the resignation of Dr Essam Sharaf's government and entrusting it with continuing work until a new government is formed with powers that enable it to continue the transitional stage in co-operation with the Scaf; commitment to carrying out parliamentary elections according to schedule and holding the election for the president of the republic before the end of June 2012.
The Scaf does not seek power and places the higher interest above any other consideration, and is ready to immediately hand over authority and return to its original task to protect the homeland, through a public referendum, if that is what the people want and if that is what is needed.