CAIRO - Egypt's ruling military warned on Friday that it would deal "firmly" with any attempt to harm the public interest as thousands of people packed Cairo's iconic Tahrir Square accusing it of a power grab.
But it insisted that it remained neutral in the deeply polarising election run-off between the Brotherhood's candidate Mohamed Morsi and Mubarak's last prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.
"Protecting the status of state institutions is a national responsibility for all. Any attack on them threatens the stability and national security of Egypt," said a SCAF statement read on state television.
"Any attempts to harm public or private interests will be confronted with utmost firmness and strength by the police and armed forces within the law."
The statement was issued as thousands of people gathered in Tahrir Square to denounce what they said was a power grab by the army before the delayed announcement by the electoral commission of the official results of the June 16-17 run-off.
But the SCAF defended a constitutional document giving it legislative powers, control over the new constitution and a broad say in government policy as a "necessity."
"The issuing of a constitutional declaration was a necessity imposed by the needs of managing the affairs of the country during the current critical phase of the history of our nation," the military council said. The Brotherhood had claimed victory just hours after the close of polls, but its subsequent release of provisional results given to both candidates by returning officers drew criticism from the SCAF.
"The early release of the presidential election results, before the announcement by the responsible body, was unjustified and is one of the main reasons for divisions and tensions in the political arena," the military said. But it also insisted in its statement that it stood "at equal distance" from all political forces.
Brotherhood supporters packed Tahrir to lay claim to victory for their candidate, even as Shafiq's campaign team insisted that their man had won.
Meanwhile, Muslim Brotherhood expects its anticipated presidential election win to be respected, its candidate said on Friday, after the ruling military threatened to deal "firmly" with any unrest.
The Brotherhood wants neither "confrontation nor violence," as the country nervously awaits the official result of the divisive June 16-17 poll run-off, its standard bearer Mohamed Morsi said.
But he added: "The expected result is known to everyone. We will not allow anyone to tamper with the result."
Both Morsi and his challenger ex-premier Ahmed Shafiq have claimed victory in the election for a successor to ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak, sparking tensions between the rival camps that have deepened after the electoral commission delayed its announcement of the official outcome.