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      Egypt Denies Using Nerve Gas on Protesters

      Officials in Cairo denied reports security forces fired poisonous gas into crowds of protesters massed in Tahrir Square.
      By Gabe Kahn.
      First Publish: 11/23/2011, 10:52 PM

      Egyptian authorities denied Wednesday reports that its security forces fired banned, poisonous gas during a five-day crackdown on renewed protests in the country.

      “Security forces have not used poison or internationally prohibited gases against the demonstrators in Tahrir Square or outside security directorates in some governorates,” state television quoted an official source as saying.

      The source said the reports were based on “rumors by a few people who want to destabilize the country”.

      Medics manning a field hospital in Tahrir Square told reporters that anti-riot police fired colorless nerve gas into the masses of protesters, who are demanding the military junta that assumed power after the ouster of President Hosni Mubarak by widespread protests in February step down.

      The number of civilians killed in five days of clashes between police and protesters in Egypt has climbed to 32, the health authorities said Wednesday as thousands rallied.

      The deaths included 28 in Cairo, two in the port city of Alexandria and one each in the desert town of Mersa Matruh and the coastal city of Esmailia, Hesham Sheha.

      Egypt’s military rulers on Tuesday agreed to transfer power to an elected civilian government by July, according to potential presidential contender Amr Moussa.

      Emerging from talks attended by him and leaders of other political powers with Samy Anan, the deputy head of the ruling military council, Mousa said that the junta had agreed to hold presidential elections by July 1, 2012.

      However thousands of Egyptians continued to rally in Tahrir Square on Wednesday, demanding an end to military rule, despite parliamentary elections scheduled to begin next week and a promise by the country's interim leader - Field Marshall Hussein Tantawi – to transfer power to an elected president by mid-2012.

      The protesters, chanting they did not believe a word Tantawi said, say the interim military junta has sought to stack the committee tasked with writing Egypt's new constitution with its own candidates, and altered election laws to exclude popular parties that threaten their power - and budget.

      Advancing the date for the transfer of power in Egypt came as the military rulers face their worst crisis in nine months.

      Tens of Thousands of Egyptians on Tuesday had thronged Tahrir Square, the epicenter of the anti-Mubarak revolt, demanding the military rulers to set a clear timetable for power handover and replace the government of Prime Minister Essam Sharaf – which resigned on Wednesday.

      The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has been in control of Egypt since a popular revolt forced former president Hosni Mubarak to step down in February.