Egypt army chief 'can't ignore demands' for presidential bid: Report

CAIRO (AFP) - Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said on Tuesday he could not ignore demands for him to run for president and will take official measures soon, state media reported.

Officials close to General Sisi told AFP the field marshal will step down as defence minister after a law is passed to regulate the election expected this spring.

The law is expected to be approved by the interim president Adly Mansour this week or next.

Gen Sisi emerged as the most popular political figure in Egypt after he overthrew Islamist president Mohamed Mursi in July following massive protests against the year-long rule of Egypt's first freely elected leader.

The army chief said "he cannot turn his back when the majority wants his nomination in presidential elections," the official MENA news agency reported.

"The next days will witness official measures," it quoted him as saying.

The general is seen by his supporters as a strong hand who can stabilise Egypt following three years of unrest ignited by the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler HosniMubarak.

Supporters rallied in the thousands in January calling on him to run, and the military itself has said it would back his decision to enter the election, which he is certain to win.

Interim president Adly Mansour is expected to approve the election law this week or next week by the latest.

Gen Sisi is reviled by the Muslim Brotherhood and other Mursi supporters, who say he masterminded a coup against the country's first democratically elected and civilian president.

Mursi himself is on trial on various charges after the military detained him on the night of his ouster.

His supporters have repeatedly taken to the streets in protest, often setting off clashes with police and civilian opponents. The violence has claimed at least 1,400 lives since Mursi's ouster, according to Amnesty International.

Militant groups have meanwhile escalated a campaign of bombings and other attacks on security forces, killing scores of policemen and soldiers.

The army general, if elected, may have to take unpopular measures such as streamlining Egypt's bloated subsidies for food and fuel.

Supporters believe only Gen Sisi, with his relatively broad support base, could pull off such measures.

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