CAIRO - Egypt's army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi has declared he cannot ignore demands that he run for president, in a looming election his supporters say he is certain to win.
Mr Sisi is seen by his supporters as a strong hand who can stabilise Egypt following three years of unrest ignited by the 2011 uprising that toppled longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.
He emerged as Egypt's most popular leader after overthrowing Mr Mubarak's successor, Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, in July following massive protests against the country's first freely elected leader.
Officials close to Mr Sisi said the field marshal would step down as defence minister after a law is passed to regulate the presidential election expected this spring.
"Field Marshal Sisi said he cannot turn his back when the majority wants his nomination in presidential elections," the official MENA news agency reported.
"The next days will witness official measures," he was quoted as saying at a graduation ceremony of military cadets in Cairo.
"All Egyptians must be shoulder-to-shoulder and exert all efforts for building, stabilising and developing" the country, he said.