Egypt is entering the next stage of its transition with parliamentary elections, the first since massive street protests forced former President Hosni Mubarak to resign in February.
The complex, staggered polls to elect parliament's lower house begin Monday and conclude in early January. Elections for the upper house end in March, after which the newly elected assembly will write a new constitution.
The head of the ruling military council, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi said Sunday the country is at a crossroads and can choose either successful elections "leading Egypt towards safety" or face dangerous hurdles that the armed forces "will not allow." He also warned of "extremely grave" consequences if the country's current political turmoil does not end quickly.
Photo Gallery: Protests in Tahrir Square
Field Marshall Tantawi's warning came as thousands of demonstrators filled Cairo's Tahrir Square for another massive protest Sunday demanding that Egypt's military immediately cede power to a "national salvation government" that would run the country until a president is elected.
A number of the revolutionary youth groups leading the protests have proposed that opposition leader and Nobel Peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei head an interim civilian administration with deputies from across the political spectrum. The proposed body would replace the ruling military council in supervising Egypt's transition to democracy.
ElBaradei said Saturday he would abandon his bid for Egypt's presidency if formally asked to lead such a government.
Meanwhile, there has been another attack on a gas pipeline in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula, just hours before the start of the polls. State-run news agency ((MENA)) reported saboteurs attacked a section of the pipeline about 60 kilometers west of the town of El-Arish early Monday.
This is the ninth time this year that saboteurs have targeted the pipeline which supplies natural gas to Israel and Jordan. The last attack was carried out on Friday.
Earlier this month, Egyptian police arrested Mohammed el-Tihi, a leading member of an armed Islamist group suspected of several of the bombings.
Previous attacks have disrupted fuel supplies for weeks.
Some information for this report was provided by AP, AFP and Reuters.