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Egypt military chief a near lock to run for president

| Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 5:40 p.m.

CAIRO — Egypt's military chief, Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi, gave his strongest indication yet that he intends to run for president, saying on Tuesday that he “can't turn his back” to public demands. In a campaign-style speech, he said Egyptians must unite and end street turmoil to tackle the country's mounting economic and security woes.

Al-Sisi is considered almost certain to win if he runs for president, riding a wave of popular fervor since he ousted the country's first freely elected president, Islamist Mohamed Morsy, who endured widespread protests demanding his removal after a year in office.

Since the ouster last summer, a heated anti-Islamist and nationalist media campaign has fanned support for al-Sisi, touting him as the nation's savior. For weeks, pro-military media have been saying the field marshal will announce his candidacy imminently.

Al-Sisi's speech to military cadets and their families during a graduation ceremony, later aired on state TV, appeared aimed at explaining to nervous supporters why he has not yet made an official announcement amid the expectations — while laying out what is likely to be a theme of his campaign, that Egyptians must take responsibility for restoring stability and rebuilding the economy.

He virtually confirmed he intends to run. “Don't imagine that anyone who truly loves his country and loves the Egyptians, can ever turn his back on them when he finds there is a desire by many of them. No one can do that,” he said, to applause from the audience.

He said he could not openly declare his candidacy because he still holds the post of defense minister. “Let us leave things for the coming days,” he said, hinting that he was waiting for the interim president to issue a law governing the presidential vote. The vote is to be held by the end of April.

“I spoke in signs so that people don't get confused” amid much speculation, al-Sisi said. “I hope you all got the sign.

“Don't imagine that any one person can solve the problems in Egypt, regardless of who it is you select. No, it will be solved by all of us,” he said. “Don't imagine that the problems accumulated for over 30 years, can be solved without us joining hands.”

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