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Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Tahrir Square on Wednesday demanding an end to military rule.—AFP Photo

CAIRO: Several thousand Egyptians rallied in Tahrir Square on Wednesday demanding an end to military rule, despite a promise by the country's interim leader to transfer power to an elected president by mid-2012.

Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who served as minister under Hosni Mubarak took power when the ex-president was ousted in February, pledged in a rare televised addressed on Tuesday to hold a presidential election by the end of June.

He also said he was ready to transfer power immediately, via a referendum, “should the people wish it.”

But tens of thousands of Egyptians attending an anti-military rally in Tahrir Square railed against Tantawi, when news of his statement filtered through, saying they did not believe a word he said.

“We can't trust what he says. The ball has been in SCAF's court for months, and they didn't do anything,” said Ibtisam al-Hamalawy, 50, referring to the ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces.

“Tantawi is Mubarak, copy pasted. He's Mubarak in a military uniform,” said Ahmed Mamduh, 35, an accountant.

Protesters in Tahrir Square indicated they wanted to hear nothing less than an announcement of an end to military rule.

Since Mubarak's ouster, protesters have grown increasingly angry at the military council which they accuse of being an extension of the old regime and of resorting to Mubarak-era tactics to stifle dissent.

The latest mass protests that began at the weekend led to the resignation of the cabinet on Monday, just a week before crucial legislative polls, the first since Mubarak was toppled, which Tantawi said would be held on schedule.

“A second revolution,” read the headline of the pro-government daily Al-Akhbar on Wednesday.

“The most dangerous thing that could happen is deterioration in relations between the army and the people,” the newspaper warned.