CAIRO (Reuters) – Millions took to the streets to celebrate the new Egypt on Friday, reminding military rulers to keep their promise of a swift transition to civilian rule after people power swept away autocrat Hosni Mubarak in just 18 days.
On an emotional day that will become a landmark in modern Egyptian history and a memorial to the 365 people who died in the uprising, many said they would carefully guard newly-won promises from the military of elections within six months.
"This is a serious message to the military," said Mohamed el-Said, 28, who traveled to Cairo from Port Said, gesturing to the colorful sea of people from all walks of life around him who rallied to mark the stepping down of Mubarak a week ago.
"After today, it will be more than obvious to them that if they don't protect the revolution and respond to the people's demands, the next time people go down to Tahrir won't be to celebrate victory, but they will bring their blankets with them like before," he told Reuters in Tahrir (Liberation) Square.
Sheikh Yousef al-Qaradawi, an influential Qatar-based Egyptian preacher, told worshippers in Tahrir Square that fear had been lifted from Egyptians who had toppled a modern pharaoh through faith and triumphed over sectarianism.
His appearance and the emergence of the Muslim Brotherhood show a new-found acceptance in the new Egypt of once-forbidden Islamist movements, although Egyptians say religious voices are only some of the many now being heard.
The revolution in Egypt, a U.S. ally which signed the first Arab peace treaty with Israel, sent tremors through the region. Protests erupted in Libya, Yemen, Bahrain, Iran and Iraq, taking their cue from Egypt and Tunisia who toppled their leaders.
"I call on the Egyptian army to liberate us from the government that Mubarak formed," Qaradawi told the faithful at noon prayers in Tahrir Square, after which the crowd exploded with cheers and waved national flags in jubilation.
The cabinet now in place is largely the same as one that Mubarak, 82, appointed shortly before he stepped down from the presidency. A reshuffle is expected in the next few days.
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