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The military reinstated and broadened the scope of a controversial emergency law, which had been in place since Islamists assassinated President Anwar Sadat in 1981. Under the law, police powers are extended, constitutional rights suspended and censorship legalized.

President Obama urged Field Marshal Tantawi in a phone conversation on Monday to lift the emergency law and end military trials for civilians.

Egyptians’ anger at the slow pace of reform has been heightened by the dismal state of the country’s economy. Two key sources of income, tourism and foreign investment, have dried up since the protests erupted in January.

Attacks on Christians, who make up about 10 percent of Egypt’s predominantly Muslim population, have increased since Mr. Mubarak’s ouster.

The most deadly of these incidents took place in Cairo’s Maspero district on Oct. 9. Several Coptic Christians taking part in a peaceful demonstration were crushed to death by military vehicles.

Human Rights Watch says the military is shielding the soldiers and cannot be trusted to investigate the incident impartially. It has called for a civilian-led investigation.

An increase in violence between Muslims and Christians could give the military an excuse to hijack the revolution, human rights and pro-democracy activists say.

Meanwhile, U.S. support for the military council is adding to the anger of pro-democracy groups in Egypt.

The United States is repeating mistakes of the past by backing the council instead of speaking out in support of the Egyptian people, Mr. Maher told The Times.

“[The Obama administration] must change its behavior to the Arab people,” he said.

U.S. officials, however, say the Obama administration is firmly behind the Egyptian people’s quest for a democratic transition.

“While we will not dictate outcomes in Egypt, we do support a set of clear principles,” said Noel Clay, a State Department spokesman.

The United States supports a peaceful and legitimate transition to a representative government committed to universal rights, he added.

“The U.S. got Egypt wrong for 30 years, and it is in danger of getting Egypt wrong now,” Brookings’ Mr. Hamid said. “We are going back to where we were under the Mubarak regime of prioritizing stability over democracy, of backing regimes.

“We have to do this right,” he added.

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