|A TV screen grab taken on March 26, 2014 shows Egypt's military chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi makes a televised statement in Cairo, Egypt. Egypt's military chief and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi announced in a televised statement on Wednesday night his resignation and bid for the upcoming presidential elections. (Xinhua/Pan Chaoyue)
CAIRO, March 26 (Xinhua) -- Egypt's army chief Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi on Wednesday announced his resignation as well as bid for the upcoming presidential elections, which is long expected by the public after he toppled the former president in July last year.
"Today, I stand before you for the last time in military uniform," Sisi said in a televised statement, dressed in his field marshal's uniform, sitting behind a wooden desk.
"I decided to end my service as a military chief and the defense minister," he added, vowing that he will fight for an Egypt "free of terrorism."
"I modestly announce to you my bid to run for the presidential elections," he said, noting that he put on and took off his military uniform for Egypt.
According to Egypt's newly-established constitution, only civilians have the right to run for president, therefore, Sisi's quit from the military and the cabinet is a required step.
Sisi made the campaign-style speech after a lengthy meeting on Wednesday night with the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) in the presence of Interim President Adli Mansour.
"No one can force Egyptians to elect a president they do not want," Sisi said. He also urged other candidates to run for the presidency. "I will be happy to see the victory of any candidate chosen by the people."
Egypt is facing a "weak economy" and "threats from terrorism," the ex-army leader said, stressing that he would not "perform miracles" but promise to "work hard and earnestly" for the country's rise and best interests.
Talking about his presidential campaign, Sisi said he would offer a clear vision for establishing "a democratic and modern state" in the future.
"If I am given the honor of ruling the country, I promise you that I will achieve together stability, security and hope for Egypt," he said.
In a meeting held in late January, the SCAF gave Sisi the green light to run for president in response to popular demands, as Sisi's popularity mounted after he toppled Muslim Brotherhood-oriented President Mohamed Morsi on July 3 after mass protests against his one-year turbulent rule.
The 59-year-old field marshal had hinted several times that he would join next month's presidential elections if there is a "military mandate and people's demands," rejecting reports that the army would regain power after ousting Morsi, Egypt's first democratically-elected president.
The military-backed transitional roadmap says that parliamentary elections were supposed to be held ahead of the presidential race. However, Mansour, who was installed interim president by the army, said in late January that presidential polls would come first.
Meanwhile, the interim leader promoted Wednesday Army Chief of Staff Lieutenant General Sedki Sobhi to the higher rank of general, which is seen as a prior step to replace Sisi as defense minister.
According to the constitution, the president cannot appoint a defense minister without the approval of SCAF.
Besides Sisi, leftist leader Hamdeen Sabahy is the only one who has officially announced intention to run for the presidency.
Just a few hours before Sisi's address, clashes between Morsi's student supporters and security forces erupted across the Egypt, killing one protester at a Cairo university campus.
Students staged demonstrations after noon prayers against Monday's mass death sentence to 529 Brotherhood supporters in southern governorate of Minya, the largest act in the country's modern judicial history.
Protests, clashes and trials of Morsi's loyalists have been a nearly daily occurrence since he was removed. Islamist extremists have also launched attacks against armed forces and their installations.
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