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Egypt military chief Sisi resigns

Abdul Fattah al-Sisi (22 May 2013)The field marshal is widely expected to become president of Egypt, the most populous Arab nation

Field Marshal Abdul Fattah al-Sisi has announced that he has resigned as Egypt’s military chief in order to stand for the presidency.

He made the widely expected announcement on state television.

The field marshal led the overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi in July following mass opposition protests.

Correspondent say he is likely to win the presidential poll, given his popularity and the lack of any serious rivals.

In his address, Mr Sisi said Egypt was “threatened by terrorists,” and vowed to rid the country of what he called “terrorism.”

Earlier this month, Field Marshal Sisi was quoted by state media as saying he could “not turn his back on calls by the majority of Egyptians” for him to run for president.

Tens of thousands of his supporters, who see him as a strongman able to stabilise Egypt, have taken to the streets to urge him to stand.

The field marshal’s opponents hold him responsible for what human rights groups say are widespread abuses, and fear that he wants a return to authoritarianism, three years after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.

The starting date of the nomination process for the presidential election will reportedly be announced on Sunday, after which no changes may be made to the electoral roll.

The government has yet to set a date for the vote, although earlier this month al-Ahram cited interim President Adly Mansour as saying that it would be completed by 17 July.

Leftist politician Hamdeen Sabahi, who came third in the 2012 election, is the only other candidate to have declared his intention to run.

Gen Sedki Sobhi, the current chief-of-staff of the armed forces, is expected to be named the new commander-in-chief and defence minister.

Field Marshal Sisi, a 59-year-old former military intelligence chief, was appointed to the two posts by Mr Morsi in August 2012.

But after mass protests demanding Mr Morsi’s resignation took place on the first anniversary of his taking office, it was the field marshal who gave the president an ultimatum that he would have to satisfy the public’s demands or see the army step in.

When Mr Morsi refused, Field Marshal Sisi suspended the constitution and announced the formation of a technocratic interim government.

Since then, more than 1,000 people have been killed and thousands of members of Mr Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood have been detained in a crackdown by the interim authorities, who have designated the Islamist movement a terrorist group.

Mr Morsi and many other senior Brotherhood leaders are currently being tried on a variety of charges, including incitement to murder and conspiring to commit terrorist acts.

On Monday, there was widespread international condemnation after a court in the central city of Minya sentenced to death 528 Morsi supporters in connection with an attack on a police station in August. The verdict was delivered on only the second day of the trial.

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