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Egypt's military, Muslim Brotherhood trade blame as tensions rise over election

CAIRO — Egypt's military and the Muslim Brotherhood traded blame for rising tensions Friday as the country awaited the outcome of a presidential runoff vote that pits an Islamist against ousted leader Hosni Mubarak's former prime minister.

Brotherhood leaders said the ruling military council is holding the election results hostage as it bargains to maintain its lock on power. Tens of thousands of supporters of the Islamist group have rallied in the capital's Tahrir Square in a show of force backing candidate Mohammed Morsi, who has warned against manipulating results in a vote that he says he has won.

The military declared it was acting for "higher national interests" and vowed to crack down on any violence by any group unhappy with the electoral outcome.

Tensions soared Wednesday when the military-appointed election commission indefinitely delayed announcing the results of last weekend elections.

The Brotherhood announced soon after polls closed Sunday that it had beaten rival candidate Ahmed Shafiq, an ex-air force commander who many view as the military's preferred candidate, by 52 to 48 percent. Shafiq has also claimed victory by a narrow margin.

Many accuse the military of planning to direct the election commission to announce a Shafiq win. Others say the commission has determined there was a genuine Shafiq victory but fears that no one will believe such an outcome. The commission itself says it is sorting out the claims of election violations filed by both candidates.

The Brotherhood has raised another possibility: Just before the vote, the nation's highest court dissolved the Brotherhood-led parliament and the military granted itself new exceptional powers, leaving the next president with limited authority. The generals won't let the commission announce Morsi's victory until they accept those decisions, some movement figures say.