Cairo, Feb.1 (ANI): The Egyptian Army, which has had a significant role to play in the country's political landscape for more than half-a-century, has told demonstrators that their demands are "legitimate" and that troops "would not resort to the use of force against our great people".
Speaking on the eve of a planned demonstration that could bring as many as a million protesters to the streets, the army statement, carried on state television, appeared to mark a significant blow to President Hosni Mubarak's hopes of clinging to power, The Independent reports.
"The presence of the army in the streets is for your sake and to ensure your safety and well being. Your armed forces, who... are keen to assume their responsibility in protecting the nation and its citizens, affirm that freedom of expression through peaceful means is guaranteed to everybody," an army statement said.
Tuesday's protests will prove a crucial test of the army's commitment, which, if it were matched by its actions, could consign President Mubarak to history.
Without the support of the widely respected army, which has been an imposing presence on the streets of Cairo in recent days, Mubarak's chances of seeing off the uprising appear remote.
On Monday, he attempted once more to stem the tide against him by appointing a new cabinet and ordered talks to begin with "political forces" for constitutional reforms demanded by the protesters.
Opposition forces have long demanded a lifting of strict restrictions on who is eligible to run for president to allow a real challenge to the ruling party.
Despite the heavy army presence in the square and at nearby intersections - and with the exception of a tense incident in the late morning when troops started firing in the air - relations between troops and demonstrators throughout the daylight hours were calm and even cordial compared with the crowd's universal contempt for police who tried to quell the protests with lethal brutality last week. (ANI)