Egypt seeks quick election

Egypt's head of state has set a speedy timetable for elections to drag the country from crisis.

Egyptians celebrate at Tahrir Square with a portrait of Army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi after the army removed the president. Picture: AFP/Khaled Desouki

CAIRO - Egypt's interim head of state has set a speedy timetable for elections to drag the Arab world's biggest country from crisis, after the military ousting of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last week sparked a wave of bloody protests.

A decree issued by Adli Mansour, pointed to a parliamentary ballot within about six months with a presidential vote to follow.

However, it was faulted for repeating flaws in the 2011 transition plan that contributed to the current crisis.

The need for a political breakthrough is pressing.

At least 51 people were killed on Monday when the army opened fire on Morsi supporters camped outside Cairo's Republican Guard barracks where the deposed leader is believed to be held.

The military said it opened fire in response to an attack by armed assailants. On Friday, clashes between pro- and anti-Morsi supporters swept Egypt and left 35 dead.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement called for more protests on Tuesday, raising the risk of further violence, although an umbrella group representing anti-Morsi protesters said they would not demonstrate.

The bloodshed has shocked Egyptians, already tired of the turbulence that began 2-1/2 years ago with the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak in a popular uprising.

It also raised alarm among key donors like the United States and the European Union, as well as in Israel, with which Egypt has had a US-backed peace treaty since 1979.

Millions of people took to the streets on June 30 to demand Morsi's resignation, fearing he was orchestrating a creeping Islamist takeover of the state, a charge the Brotherhood has vehemently denied.

But for many Islamists, the overthrow of Egypt's first freely elected president was a bitter reversal that raised fears of a return to the suppression they endured for decades under autocratic rulers like Mubarak.