Egypt's Mursi says army keeps pledge to cede power

CAIRO Sat Jun 30, 2012 11:35am EDT

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CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt's new President Mohamed Mursi said on Saturday the military that took charge when Hosni Mubarak was overthrown last year had kept its promise to hand over power, speaking at a ceremony to mark the formal transfer of authority.

Mursi's comments followed a speech by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who heads the military council. In his remarks, Tantawi also said the army had kept its pledge to oversee the nation until a president was elected.

The army council, before Mursi was sworn following his victory in an election this month, curbed presidential powers and took other steps to maintain a strong grip on Egypt.

"The Egyptian people and the ... world are witnessing a unique model, not seen before, of how power is transferred from the Egyptian military forces by the will of the people to an elected, civilian power," Mursi said.

"The armed forces handed over power with assurance and they kept their promise," he said, adding in his comments before generals and troops on parade that no one would "touch any of your rights" and promised to support their national work.

Tantawi, in his address, told Mursi, generals, politicians and others gathered at the desert military base:

"We have kept the promise that we made before God and the people. Now we have an elected president who takes over the keys for ruling Egypt through a direct and free vote."

"Egypt is reborn as a modern, democratic state where the sovereignty is with the people," he said. "It is time to put the past behind us."

In comments addressed directly to the president in this speech, that followed a fly past by helicopters, Tantawi said: "Mr. president of the republic, we know that the way is still difficult and long but we are certain that Egypt has the foundations to achieve its aspirations."

(Reporting by Omar Fahmy and Yasmine Saleh; Writing by Edmund Blair)

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