Egypt army chief: Only popular demand will make me run for president
CAIRO - Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi said he would run for president if the people demand it and the military supports him, state media quoted him as saying on Saturday.
An official close to the general said Sisi has not made up his mind but feels he "would not have the luxury or choice" to stand aside in the election if there is a palpable demand for him to run in the poll.
"If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army," the state newspaper Al-Ahram quoted him as saying at a meeting with Egyptian officials.
A member of the audience confirmed the comments.
The official close to the general said Sisi would be "obliged" to stand in the election if he felt the people demanded him as president.
Sisi also urged Egyptians to participate "in force" in next week's referendum on a new constitution, billed as the first stage in the nation's democratic transition.
On July 3, Islamist Mohamed Morsi was ousted after massive protests against his turbulent one-year rule.
Sisi urged the public to "assume their national responsibility of participating in force in the referendum in order to build a democratic and modern state that satisfies all Egyptians," state news agency MENA quoted him as saying at a conference of high-ranking officials.
The referendum on a revised constitution will be held on January 14 and 15 to replace the one suspended when Morsi was toppled.
Sisi said Egypt was at the start of a "decisive stage" in its history, and the referendum will be "the first stage in the implementation of the road map after two unique revolutions that showed close ties between the people and the national army".
The interim authorities outlined a road map for a democratic transition after the ouster of Morsi.
The plan provides for a referendum on a new constitution, followed by presidential and parliamentary elections by the middle of 2014.
Sisi also urged the security forces to remain alert during the referendum to "create a safe atmosphere, so that the people can express their opinions freely".
Morsi's Islamist supporters have called for a boycott of the referendum.