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Egyptian Military Budges in Face of Tahrir Square Protesters

Peter Macdiarmid/Getty Images(CAIRO) -- The head of Egypt's interim military government pledged Tuesday to hold a referendum on transferring power to a civilian government, but throngs of angry protesters insisted instead that the military give up power immediately.

Field Marshall Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, the head of the military government, addressed the nation in an effort to defuse the anger of the protesters that packed Cairo's Tahrir Square in a show of force similar to the demonstrations that brought down longtime Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak last February.

Tantawi said he would move up presidential elections to June 2012 and would hold a referendum on having the military relinquish power immediately if necessary. Currently, the transfer of power to civilian rule is scheduled for late 2012 or 2013.

Tantawi also announced that parliamentary elections will take place as scheduled on Nov. 28.

His proposal was was met with angry chants of "irhal," or leave, from the tens of thousands of protesters who have filled Tahrir Square for the past four days. At times another chant rose claiming, "The people want the regime to fall."

U.S. State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland on Tuesday called Tantawi's promises "important reassurances," and said the U.S. would hold the Egyptian military to its pledges.

The protesters have been faced with harsh measures by Egyptian security forces throughout the demonstrations, with nearly 30 reported deaths since the demonstrations began on Saturday.

The tough measures got a rebuke Tuesday from the U.S. State Department.  

Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio

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