CAIRO  - Egypt’s military rulers vowed Thursday that this month’s presidential election will be fair and moved to assure the public it would hand over power, a day after a deadly attack on an anti-military protest.

“We are committed to fair elections 100 percent. We don’t have any candidates. All the candidates are respectable Egyptians,” said Major General Mohammed al-Assar of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces

Assar was speaking at a news conference as an uneasy calm returned to Cairo’s streets following clashes that killed 20 people outside the defence ministry on Wednesday, according to medics. “We want to stress the commitment of the armed forces... of not using violence against the people. The armed forces belong to the people,” said Assar, who put Wednesday’s toll at nine dead and more than 160 injured.

The general, an aide to the defence minister, said the security forces had intervened “positively” to stop the bloodshed and to ensure stability, more than a year after a popular uprising toppled veteran president Hosni Mubarak.

“Egypt is in danger... Everyone must realise this danger,” said Assar.”I propose an initiative to all political parties and religious leaders to go to Abbassiya and try to persuade the youths to leave Abbassiya,” he said referring to the Cairo district in which Wednesday’s clashes occurred.

“Go to Tahrir Square... to stay away from the defence ministry because we dont want to use any violence against our youths,” he added.

Cairo’s Tahrir Square was the epicentre of the massive protest movement that eventually forced Mubarak to hand over power to the military, led by Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi.

Assar said the military would transfer power by the end of June.

The presidential election is scheduled for May 23 and 24 and a run off for June 16 and 17 if there is no outright winner in the first round.

“We have said it from the start... we say it again clearly and frankly: the SCAF is committed to handing over power by June 30, 2012 and even before,” said Assar.