White House calls for swift return to civilian rule in Egypt

Islamists call for protests after Brotherhood officials arrested.

July 4, 2013 23:57
Obama speaks, June 25, 2013

Obama gestures as he speaks into microphone 521. (photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - US President Barack Obama's national security aides are pressing Egyptian officials to move quickly to a democratic government after a military takeover ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, the White House said on Thursday.

Obama met with top advisers in the White House Situation Room to discuss the crisis in Egypt, a day after the tumultuous ouster of Egypt's first democratically elected president that the United States has carefully avoided calling a coup.

"Members of the president's national security team have been in touch with Egyptian officials and our regional partners to convey the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible," a White House statement said.

Obama is pressing for a transparent political process that is inclusive of all parties, wants Egypt's military-run government to avoid arbitrary arrests of Morsi and his backers, and stresses the need for all parties to avoid violence, the statement said.

The Obama administration has denounced the military takeover but stopped short of calling it a coup.

Obama ordered a review to determine whether US military assistance to Egypt should be cut off.

Phone calls were made by Obama's top aides on Wednesday and Thursday, including conversations by Secretary of State John Kerry with Egyptian leaders as well as Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu and the foreign ministers of Qatar, Turkey, and the United Arab Emirates.

Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel spoke with Egyptian Minister of Defense General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and Defense Minister Moshe Ya'alon, the statement said.

Meanwhile, an Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood appealed to Egyptians on Thursday to demonstrate across the nation in a "Friday of Rejection" against a military coup that ousted Morsi.

The National Coalition in Support of Legitimacy "calls on the Egyptian people to take to the streets and mobilize peacefully" after Friday prayers "to say 'No' to military detentions, 'No' to the military coup".

The call was issued at a news conference at a mosque in suburban Cairo where Morsi supporters have staged a sit-in since last week. Troops with armored vehicles have surrounded the area since Wednesday, when Morsi was toppled, but have not intervened to clear the protesters.

The call follows the arrest of supreme guide of the Muslim Brotherhood on Thursday by Egyptian security forces in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh following the military overthrow of Morsi, security sources said.

Police tracked Mohamed Badie to the city, which is near the Libyan border but did not believe he was trying to flee the country, the sources said.

The prosecutor's office ordered his arrest earlier on Thursday, along with his influential deputy Khairat el-Shater.

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood meanwhile responded to the military intervention, stating that it will not work with "the usurper authorities", a member of its executive board said on Thursday, rejecting feelers from the newly sworn-in head of state after the military removed Morsi from power.

"We reject participation in any work with the usurper authorities," Sheikh Abdel Rahman al-Barr said in a statement published on the group's website.


"We call on protesters to show self restraint and stay peaceful. We reject the oppressive, police state practices: killing, arrests, curbing media freedom and closing TV channels."

After a turbulent 24 hours in which Morsi was overthrown by the army and hundreds of thousands rallied across the country, Constitutional Court chief Adli Mansour was sworn in as interim head of state on Thursday.

At least 14 people were killed and hundreds wounded in clashes between opponents and supporters of Morsi, following his removal late Wednesday.

Speaking at the Constitutional Court in Cairo after the ceremony, Mansour said he planned to hold new elections, but did not specify when.


Eight were reported dead were in the northern city of Marsa Matrouh. Al-Anani Hamouda, a senior provincial security official, said two members of security forces were among those killed.

Three people died and at least 50 were wounded in fighting in the coastal city of Alexandria, state news agency MENA reported. Witnesses said that gunfire broke out as rocks and bricks flew. A woman stabbed in the stomach was among the dead, MENA said, along with two men hit by birdshot.

Three people were also killed in the southern Egyptian city of Minya, including two policemen, MENA said, adding that another 14 people had been wounded.

Dozens more were hurt in Fayoum, south of Cairo, where unidentified assailants broke into the local offices of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Brotherhood's political wing, MENA said. The attackers looted the headquarters and set them on fire, it said.

Thursday's newspapers greeted Morsi's overthrow as a triumph for Egyptians, even though the Brotherhood won several elections last year.

"Victory for the legitimacy of the people," declared the Al-Gomhuria state newspaper in its banner headline, printed over a photograph of hundreds of thousands of people crammed into Tahrir Square in Cairo, the focal point of anti-Morsi protests.

The United Nations, the United States and other world powers did not condemn Morsi's removal as a military coup. To do so might trigger sanctions.

Army intervention was backed by millions of Egyptians, including liberal leaders and religious figures who expect new elections under a revised set of rules.

But as calm returned to the streets of Cairo and other cities, Islamists feared a clampdown that revived memories of their sufferings under the old, military-backed regime led by Hosni Mubarak, himself toppled by a popular uprising in 2011. At least 14 people were killed and hundreds wounded in street clashes. Television stations sympathetic to Morsi were taken off air.

The fall of Egypt's first elected leader after the Arab uprisings of 2011 raised questions about the future of political Islam, which only lately seemed triumphant. Deeply divided, Egypt's 84 million people find themselves again a focus of concern in a region traumatized by the civil war in Syria.

Straddling the Suez Canal and Israel's biggest neighbor, Egypt's stability is important for many powers.

The army put combat troops and tanks on the streets around a gathering of hundreds of Morsi supporters in Cairo. The military promised to keep order and Morsi said there should be no violence.

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