CAIRO -- Egypt's ruling military council on Friday blamed the Muslim Brotherhood for raising tensions by releasing presidential election results early and insisted its recent decisions that granted the generals sweeping powers were necessary for running the country.
The military statement comes as tens of thousands rallied in Cairo's Tahrir Square to support the Brotherhood's candidate for president, Mohammed Morsi. The protesters also denounced what they call the military's power grab that strips the next leader of much of his authority.
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The generals last week issued a constitutional declaration that gave them sweeping powers, which undermine the authority of the newly elected president. International condemnation of the document followed and questioned the timing of the declaration.
The Brotherhood declared Morsi the winner hours after polls closed this weekend. Its claim was contested by Morsi's rival, Ahmed Shafiq, who was Hosni Mubarak' s last prime minister.
"Announcing the results of the presidential election early before the official statement is unjustified and is one of the main reasons behind the division and confusion prevailing on the political scene," said the statement, read out on state TV. It did not specifically name the Brotherhood.
The official results were to be announced Thursday but authorities postponed it, setting off a wave of accusations of manipulation that was aimed at all sides, including the ruling military.
The military council also rebuffed calls for reinstating the parliament, which is led by the Brotherhood and which was dissolved by a court decision last week. The military said court decisions must be respected.
The council also said its constitutional declaration was a necessity in order for the military to run the country's affairs during this "critical period."
The Brotherhood has escalated its challenge of the military's recent moves, calling for protests, now in running for the fourth day.
The protesters in Tahrir Friday endorsed Morsi as president. They have also demanded the parliament be restored and wanted the military to rescind its declaration.
The military said any attempt to "harm public and private interests" would draw a "firm" response, suggesting it would not tolerate violent protests.