Egypt braces for anti-military protests

CAIRO - Egyptian activists have called for anti-military demonstrations across the country on Friday, days after bloody clashes near the defence ministry left at least nine people dead.
Several pro-democracy movements, including April 6, as well as the powerful Muslim Brotherhood said they would be joining the protests in Cairo and the Mediterranean city of Alexandria, amid a tense political run-up to the country's first post-uprising presidential election.
Protests have been held regularly on Fridays as the fast-paced developments of the pre-election phase take twists and turns prompting protest and debate.
This week, the protesters are furious over clashes near the defence ministry on Wednesday that left at least nine people dead according to the health ministry, and 20 according to field hospital medics.
In Cairo they plan to demonstrate in Tahrir Square -- the epicentre of protests that toppled president Hosni Mubarak last year-- but some have said they plan to gather outside the defence ministry, prompting the army to issue a stern warning.
"The responsibility, the duty, the law and the right to self-defence, as well as the honour of the military obligates members of the armed forces to defend the defence ministry and its military installations because they are a symbol of military honour and the prestige of the nation," General Mokhtar al-Mulla, a member of the ruling military council, said on Thursday.
"If anyone approaches its (installations), they should hold themselves responsible," he told reporters.
The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round.
The military vowed it would hand over power to civilian rule before the end of June, or by May if there is a clear winner in the first round of presidential elections.