Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) will transfer power to a civilian authority on 24 May if a single candidate wins an outright majority in upcoming presidential polls, MP Mustafa Bakry quoted SCAF number-two Sami Anan as saying following a Wednesday meeting between political party representatives, independent MPs and members of the military council.
Anan also reportedly told Bakry that the SCAF had no intention to take "extraordinary measures" in dealing with Egypt's current political crisis, stressing that the military would under no circumstances resort to the use of violence against political protestors.
"The SCAF is simply waiting for presidential elections," Bakry quoted Anan as saying on Wednesday. "If anyone is hoping to clash with the military, they should know we will never resort to fighting the demonstrators."
The statements came in response to brewing speculation that the SCAF was mulling the possible postponement of presidential elections – slated for 23 and 24 May – in light of Wednesday's clashes outside the defence ministry in Cairo's Abbasiya district.
Political party representatives met with SCAF members on Wednesday after 11 people were killed when unidentified assailants attacked protesters outside the ministry. "We're currently studying how to end the violence," Ahmed El-Fadali, head of Egypt's Democratic Peace Party, told reporters after the meeting.
Notably, the Muslim Brotherhood – which controls almost half of Egypt's post-Mubarak parliament – boycotted the meeting, which the SCAF had called in hopes of defusing the ongoing political impasse between the Islamist-dominated parliament and the SCAF-appointed government.
Revolutionary activists have accused Egypt's military of seeking to hold on to power even after a June deadline for handing over executive authority to a civilian administration. Even after a formal transfer of power, say some analysts, the military is likely to retain a wide-ranging influence on politics.
Clashes continued from early Wednesday morning until noon, when unknown assailants attacked protesters that had been camped outside defence ministry headquarters for the past four days. Eleven people were killed and dozens injured in the melee, according to interior ministry sources.
Unconfirmed reports from makeshift field hospitals in the area, however, suggest that the death-toll may be as high as 20.
Assailants reportedly attacked protesters in the early hours of Wednesday using cement bombs, stones, Molotov cocktails, teargas and shotguns loaded with birdshot, according to eyewitness accounts.
Protesters attempted to fight back with stones, setting up a second field hospital to treat the wounded, several of whom suffered from broken bones and suffocation from teargas inhalation.
Wednesday's attack on protesters was the second of its kind in less than 72 hours. A similar, albeit smaller, attack on Saturday reportedly left one protester dead and dozens injured.