CAIRO: Mohamed Morsi, champion of the long-banned Muslim Brotherhood, was poised to take the oath on Saturday as Egypt's first civilian president, launching a tricky cohabitation with the military.
In a display of the popular mandate he claims after his run-off win in a divisive presidential election, Morsi addressed a huge crowd on Friday in Cairo's Tahrir Square, epicentre of the Arab Spring uprising that ousted veteran strongman Hosni Mubarak early last year.
In his speech to tens of thousands of jubilant supporters, the Islamist, who resigned from the Brotherhood after his election win, was careful to reach out to Egypt's Christian minority of some 10 percent.
He promised a "civilian state" and praised "the square of the revolution, the square of freedom," in what he called an address to "the free world, Arabs, Muslims... the Muslims of Egypt, Christians of Egypt."
Morsi symbolically swore himself in before the crowd, saying: "I swear to preserve the republican system... and to preserve the independence" of Egypt.
"I am one of you. I fear only God," he told supporters, some of whom had waited from early in the day for his appearance.
Before his triumphant arrival, chants against the ruling military -- which took over on Mubarak's overthrow -- rang out as people gathered under a searing sun.
In his speech, Morsi served Washington advance warning that his policies will be markedly different from those of his ousted predecessor, a staunch US ally before the 18-day uprising in January and February last year forced him out.
The president-elect said he would work to secure freedom for Omar Abdul Rahman, a blind Egyptian cleric jailed for life over the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing.
"I will do everything in my power to secure freedom for... detainees, including Sheikh Omar Abdul Rahman," Morsi said.
Abdul Rahman was convicted in 1995 for his role in the World Trade Centre attack, plotting to bomb other New York targets including the United Nations, and a plan to assassinate Mubarak.
After taking the oath, Morsi will have to square up against the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF), led by Mubarak's longtime defence minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, which took over on the strongman's overthrow and will retain broad powers.
The liberal Wafd newspaper reported that Tantawi will remain defence minister.
But a defiant Morsi, whose predecessors as president have all been generals, threw down the gauntlet to the SCAF, while addressing the people directly.