Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi (C)
Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi (L) waves to supporters after the noon Friday prayer at Cairo's historic Al-Azhar mosque on the eve of his swearing-in as Egypt's first civilian president. Islamist Morsi paid tribute on Friday to the people of Egypt, Muslims and Christians alike, before a huge crowd at Cairo's Tahrir Square, birthplace of the revolt that overthrew Hosni Mubarak. © - AFP/HANDOUT/EGYPTIAN PRESIDENCY
Egypt's president-elect Mohamed Morsi (C)
AFP
Last updated: June 29, 2012

President-elect addresses Egypt from Tahrir Square

Islamist Mohamed Morsi praised Egypt's Muslims and Christians alike Friday and symbolically swore himself in as the country's first elected civilian president, playing up people power before a huge throng at Tahrir Square.

Crowds had packed the square from early in the day for the president-elect's appearance on the eve of his official swearing-in.

Morsi, who won a run-off election earlier this month, was received with applause by the tens of thousands of people gathered in the birthplace of the revolt that overthrew his predecessor Hosni Mubarak last year.

He promised a "civilian state" and praised "the square of the revolution, the square of freedom," in what he called an address to "the free world, Arabs, Muslims... the Muslims of Egypt, Christians of Egypt."

Morsi symbolically swore himself in before the crowd, saying: "I swear to preserve the republican system... and to preserve the independence" of Egypt.

"I am one of you. I fear only God," he told the crowd, hailing "the square of the revolution, the square of liberty -- Tahrir Square."

Before his triumphant arrival, chants against the ruling military which took over on Mubarak's overthrow rang out as people gathered from mid-morning under a searing sun.

In his speech Morsi, whose election has raised concerns among Egypt's sizeable Coptic Christian community, served Washington with advance warning that his politics will be markedly different from those of his ousted predecessor.

He said he would work to secure freedom for Omar Abdul Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric jailed for life over the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.

"I will do everything in my power to secure freedom for... detainees, including Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman," Morsi said in his address to the hub of the 2011 revolution.

Abdul Rahman was convicted in 1995 for his role in the World Trade Centre bombing, plotting to bomb other New York targets including the United Nations, and a plan to assassinate Mubarak.

After taking the oath, Morsi will have to contend with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, led by Mubarak's longtime defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, that will retain broad powers after it formally hands over.

He also threw down the gauntlet to the SCAF, while addressing the people directly.

"You are the source of power and legitimacy... there is no place for anyone or any institution... above this will," a defiant Morsi said. "I renounce none of the prerogatives of president."

Earlier demonstrators chanted anti-military slogans including: "Down with the power of the military" and "Field marshal, tell us the truth -- is Morsi your president or not?"

The liberal Wafd newspaper reported that Tantawi will remain defence minister in the new government.

-- Differences over power transfer --

The Muslim Brotherhood, from which Morsi resigned after winning the presidency, had called for a huge demonstration in Tahrir on Friday, under the slogan "Day of the transfer of power."

The presidency has announced that Morsi will be sworn in Saturday before the Constitutional Court, after differences with the army over the transfer of power.

Morsi "will go at 11 am (0900 GMT) Saturday to the Constitutional Court to take the oath before the Court's general assembly," said a statement released by state news agency MENA.

Traditionally the president takes the oath in parliament, but Egypt's top court has ordered the disbanding of the Islamist-dominated legislature.

The military subsequently assumed legislative powers and also formed a powerful national security council headed by the president but dominated by generals.

By agreeing to be sworn in by the Constitutional Court, Morsi is effectively acknowledging the court's decision to dissolve parliament.

The SCAF also reserves the right to appoint a new constituent assembly should the one elected by parliament be disbanded by a court decision expected on September 1, even though though the Brotherhood insists that only parliament can appoint the assembly.

Media reports said Morsi was consulting a cross-section of Egyptian society before appointing a premier and a cabinet of mostly technocrats.

In a meeting with Egyptian newspaper editors reported by most dailies on Friday, Morsi pledged there would be "no Islamisation of state institutions" during his presidency.

Morsi has already met Tantawi, as well as a delegation from the Sunni body Al-Azhar, and another representing Egypt's Coptic church.

Amnesty International on Friday urged Morsi to break the cycle of abuse under Mubarak and put Egypt on the path to the rule of law and respect for human rights.

"Egyptians have heard many promises that their demands would be listened to and that things would change, but so far their hopes have largely been frustrated," said Salil Shetty, Amnesty's secretary general.

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