Egypt army chief al-Sisi 'may run for president'

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi Sisi is widely expected to run for president but has yet to make a formal announcement

Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi will run for president if the people request it and the military supports the bid, state media quote him saying.

"If I nominate myself, there must be a popular demand, and a mandate from my army," state paper Al-Ahram quoted him as telling Egyptian officials.

The general feels he could not stand aside if there was palpable demand for him to run, an official told AFP.

Recent local reports have suggested the general is eyeing a presidential bid.

Reports of his latest comments come just days before a referendum on a new constitution, the first in a series of polls that the military-installed government says will restore elected rule in the wake of the army's ousting of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi in July 2013.

BBC Arab affairs analyst Sebastian Usher says that while General Sisi has not yet thrown one of his increasingly iconic military caps into the ring, Egyptians have little doubt he will stand in presidential elections due this year.

Gen Sisi is seen as the man pulling the strings behind the interim government, and with a burgeoning popularity cult, his popular support remains high enough to all but assure him a mandate from the people, our correspondent adds.

The general was the main force behind the ousting of Mr Morsi who is a facing a raft of criminal charges, along with many others from the leadership of the Muslim Brotherhood movement from which he hails.

His trial had been due to open this week but was adjourned until 1 February after officials said bad weather had prevented Mr Morsi being flown from his prison in Alexandria to the court in Cairo.

Students of Al-Azhar University, who are supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood and deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi, clash with riot police Supporters of Mr Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood have urged a boycott of the constitutional referendum

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