Egypt's military-appointed prime minister on Thursday called for national dialogue to resolve the country's political crisis and pleaded for a two-month calm to restore security after weeks of protests and bloodshed.
Kamal al-Ganzouri also told a news conference that the ruling military, which took over from longtime leader Hosni Mubarak 10 months ago, was eager to relinquish power and deliver the country to civilian rule. "They want to leave today not tomorrow," he said, but did not elaborate.
Ganzouri, 78, is a Mubarak-era prime minister appointed by the military last month.
His comments coincided with growing calls by protesters for the military to step down immediately. Activists have criticized the generals' handling of the country, their human rights record and their failure to revive the economy or restore security.
"I say to everyone that we must forget the past and move forward in a dialogue with all shades so that Egypt can live in peace," he said.
"This is a salvation government that came to save the revolution," he said, offering a nod to the revolutionaries behind the 18-day uprising that toppled Mubarak's 29-year rule.
Ganzouri is a veteran of the Mubarak regime, serving in several cabinet posts before for more than a decade before becoming prime minister in 1996. The military's choice of a Mubarak-era figure angered the revolutionaries who saw it as fresh evidence of the military's loyalty to the toppled regime.
His call for national dialogue is likely to fall on deaf ears. Political activists are focused on the military's departure and finding ways to offer the generals incentives to go, like offering them immunity from prosecution.
At least a 100 people have been killed in clashes between protesters and security forces as well as sectarian violence since the military took power. The deaths, coupled with the brutality shown by army troops against protesters, including women, have prompted some activists to consider suing the generals in local courts or have them put on trial before the International Criminal Court in The Hague, Netherlands.
The generals have yet to directly comment on reports that discussions were under way on the military stepping down ahead of presidential elections slated to take place before the end of June.
One proposal is for the next parliament to name a coalition government next month to run the country until a president is elected. Already, two rounds of parliamentary elections have been held and a third and final one is due in early January.
Islamists have dominated the vote thus far and were expected to maintain their comfortable lead in the final round.