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Morsi takes symbolic oath

Egypt's Islamist President-elect Mohamed Morsi takes an informal oath of office in Cairo's Tahrir Square.

Egypt President Mohammed Morsi. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Egypt's Islamist President-elect Mohamed Morsi took an informal oath of office on Friday in a speech to supporters in Cairo's Tahrir Square, in a slap at the generals trying to limit his power.

"There is no power above people power," Morsi declared to wild cheers from the crowd.

After being sworn-in as the first freely elected civilian president of the biggest Arab state, Mursi will attend a celebration in Cairo University where he will give a speech, according to the presidency statement.

The Muslim Brotherhood had wanted Morsi sworn-in before parliament, in line with past practice, but an army-backed court dissolved the Islamist-dominated lower house earlier this month.

The generals said the same court should hear Morsi take his oath of office.

Morsi held talks about the oath-taking on Thursday with the Muslim Brotherhood's general guide Mohamed Badie and prominent public and legal figures and politicians at the presidential palace.

Following the meetings, a presidential spokesman issued a statement that mentioned only Morsi's plans to address the nation on Friday from Tahrir Square where hundreds of protesters have been camped out for weeks to press the military council to swiftly transfer all powers to civilian rulers.

Later, a senior judge in the Supreme Constitutional Court told the state news agency MENA that Morsi would take the oath in front of a panel of Judges from the Supreme Constitutional Court on Saturday.

The army council that has ruled Egypt since pushing former President Hosni Mubarak aside to calm a popular uprising last year has promised to hand back control by July 1.

Yet the military has demonstrated that it intends to keep its hands firmly on the real levers of power.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, 76, who served as Mubarak's defence minister for two decades, will keep that post in Morsi's future cabinet, an army council member said on Wednesday night.

"The government will have a defence minister who is head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces," Major-General Mohamed Assar said on private CBC television.

Asked by the talk show host if this meant Tantawi would keep his defence portfolio, Assar said: "Exactly. What is wrong with that? He is the head of the SCAF, the defence minister and the commander of the armed forces."

The military council led by Tantawi has managed a turbulent and sometimes violent transition period in which Egypt's first free parliamentary and presidential elections have taken place.

Assar's assertion that Tantawi would remain in place even before Mursi has been sworn in on Saturday illustrates the limits the military seeks to set on his presidential authority.