Tantawi: Sinai "100% Safe"
Egypt's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi on Wednesday sought to allay security concerns saying the Sinai Peninsula is "100% safe."
"The security situation in Sinai is 100% safe," Egypt's official MENA news agency quoted Tantawi as saying.
Tantawi's assertion came during a visit by US defense secretary Leon Panetta who echoed recent concerns expressed by Israeli officials that the Sinai was destabilizing. Those concerns previously spawned a flurry of angry rhetoric from politicians in Cairo who claimed Israel intended to seize the Sinai from Egypt.
Tantawi's assertion Cairo had "complete control" in the areas where Egypt is allowed to deploy troops are at odds with an estimated 3,271 illegal immigrants who poured into Israel from the Sinai in the past two months, and the recent sixth attack on the Sinai pipeline that feeds natural gas to Israel.
Meanwhile, Tantawi also sought to put an end to speculation as to whether he, or another army official, would run for the presidency.
"These are rumors that should not be considered. We must not waste time talking about such rumors," Tantawi told MENA when asked if the Army would field a candidate.
"We are not a party to the political process, we are working to hand over power as soon as possible," Tantawi said.
Rumors about a potential Tantawi run for the Presidency began to swirl after he was seen walking down a Cairo street in mufti without a security detail two weeks ago.
The ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which Tantawi heads, has yet to set a date for the presidential election, but has vowed to eventually hand the country over to civilian rule.
Egypt’s parliamentary polls, which will occur in three stages, are scheduled to begin on November 28 and are to take place over four months.
The military council has been derided by activists for its “sluggish handling” of the transition from the authoritarian rule of Hosni Mubarak to a more open, democratic society.