- Associated Press - Thursday, December 22, 2011

CAIRO Egypt's military-appointed prime minister on Thursday called for national dialogue to resolve the country’s political crisis and pleaded for a two-month calm to restore security after weeks of protests and bloodshed.

Kamal el-Ganzouri also told a news conference that the ruling military is eager to relinquish power and deliver the country to civilian rule, as demanded by activists and protesters in the streets around Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

“They want to leave today, not tomorrow,” he said without elaborating.

Few, if any, of the activists demanding an immediate end to military rule are likely to take up the offer of dialogue.

Instead, they are focused on finding ways to persuade and pressure the generals to quickly step aside, such as offering them immunity from prosecution over the deaths of protesters killed in recent clashes with soldiers and police or calling for presidential elections by next month.

At least 100 people have been killed in such confrontations and in sectarian violence since the military took power after the ouster of longtime leader Hosni Mubarak in February.

The deaths, coupled with the brutality shown by army troops against protesters, including women, have prompted some activists to consider suing the generals in local courts or try to have them put on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague.

About 3,000 students from Ain Shams University in Cairo marched Thursday after a prayer service for a student killed in the recent clashes. Students carried a symbolic coffin, Egyptian flags and a large picture of Mr. Mubarak in a noose.

A Cairo protest rally, called “Regaining honor and defending the revolution,” is scheduled for Friday.

Ziad el-Oleimi, a newly elected lawmaker who was among the leading figures during the uprising, said for calm to be restored, the culprits behind the recent violence must be brought to trial and held accountable.

“This is just an attempt to gain time, and to make people hate the revolution even more,” he said. “The prime minister never admitted a mistake. He is responsible for those killed.”

For months, activists have criticized the generals’ handling of the country during the tumultuous transition, taking aim in particular at their human rights record and their failure to revive the economy or restore security.

Under the military’s own timetable for stepping aside, it has pledged to hold presidential elections before the end of June 2012.

Staggered parliamentary elections are already under way, with two rounds of voting held. A third and final round is slated for early next month.

Turnout was light in the second day of voting in runoff elections Thursday.

Story Continues →