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Early presidential elections announced in Egypt

Presidential elections will be held before parliamentary polls in Egypt, in a change from the country's transitional plan after last year's military coup. The announcement came after dozens were killed in clashes.

Interim President Adly Mansour, who was installed after the army's ouster of Islamist former president Mohammed Morsi last July, said in a televised address on Sunday that the country will have presidential elections before parliamentary polls.

The announcement, which was an amendment to the military-backed roadmap adopted after Morsi's ouster, was expected. Mansour said he would ask the election commission to open the door for presidential candidates to register, as stipulated in the constitution, which was approved in a referendum earlier this month.

The original plan had envisioned parliamentary elections as the first step after a new constitution was approved, however many politicians in Egypt have argued that presidential polls are the first priority.

Although Mansour did not indicate a date for the polls, according the new constitution, the presidential elections are to be held before the end of April, with the parliamentary polls held before the end of July.

There is widespread speculation that army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi will run for president.

Dozens dead on Egypt uprising anniversary

The announcement came following the deaths of dozens of people on the anniversary of Egypt's popular uprising.

The death toll from the clashes has risen to 49, the Egyptian health ministry said on Sunday. The interior ministry said separately that more than 1,000 people had been arrested over the past day.

Security forces battled opponents of the army-backed government which deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July after just one year in power. The violence over the weekend marked three years since the start of the popular revolt that removed long-serving autocrat Hosni Mubarak

On Saturday, thousands of pro-military demonstrators marched on Cairo's Tahrir Square, the birthplace of the 2011 uprising, calling on General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to run for president [seen above on a poster]. At the same time, a mix of Muslim Brotherhood Islamists and secular liberals tried to hold counter-demonstrations against the government.

Security forces across Cairo moved quickly to disperse the pro-Morsi protesters while welcoming demonstrators to sanctioned commemorations. In Cairo's Muhandiseen district, police fired teargas and birdshot at anti-government protesters outside a mosque.

The violence is a continuation of a crackdown by security forces on Islamist protesters since last July, when General el-Sissi launched a military coup in response to ongoing anti-Islamist demonstrations. El-Sissi overthrew Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt's first democratically elected president, and installed an interim government.

Since then, at least 1,000 people have been killed and thousands of Islamists arrested, including most top leaders of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement, and Morsi himself. The group was recently designated as a terrorist organization.

Soldiers killed in Sinai Peninsula attack

A state-run Egyptian newspaper reported at least two soldiers killed on Sunday during an attack on the restive Sinai Peninsula. At least 14 soldiers were wounded in the assault, which targeted a security checkpoint, al-Ahram said in its online edition.

Other sources in Egypt said the attack happened when militants targeted a military bus.

That came a day after a car bomb exploded near a police camp in the city of Suez, as well as the crash of a military helicopter in Sinai, which killed its five-member crew. The military said it was investigating the cause of the crash.

On Friday, six people were killed in a series of bombings on security facilities in Cairo.

jr/ccp (AP, Reuters, AFP, dpa)

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