CAIRO Egypt's army would quit power immediately if the people voted for it in a referendum and a presidential election will be held by mid-2012, the head of the ruling military council said on Tuesday.
In a speech announcing concessions to protesters who massed in Cairo's Tahrir Square to demand the army withdraw from power, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi said the council accepted the resignation of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf's cabinet.
"The armed forces, represented by their Supreme Council, do not aspire to govern and put the supreme interest of the country above all considerations," Tantawi said in the televised address.
He said the army was "completely ready to hand over responsibility immediately, and to return to its original mission to protect the nation if the nation wants that, via a popular referendum, if need be."
(Writing by Marwa Awad and Tom Perry)