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Military council member clarifies Egypt's position in Washington DC visit

Major General Mohamed El-Assar has conducted a visit to Washington DC where he made statements concerning Egypt’s internal status, regional considerations, as well as US policies in Egypt

Ahram Online , Tuesday 26 Jul 2011
Egypt
The Egyptian Army insists that it will defend the revolution (Photo by: reuters)
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Mohamed El-Assar, a member of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) and an assistant to the minister of defence, has conducted two seminars in Washington DC as part of the Egyptian delegation's visit to the US capital. The seminars tackled Egypt’s January 25 revolution and the current situation in the Middle East, as well as bi-lateral relations with the United States.

El-Assar affirmed that the currently ruling military council is not an extension of Mubarak’s regime, and that the army was committed to not intervening throughout the revolution, whether politically or coercively. He also said that “no one, be it from the outside or the inside, has the ability to impose their views on the Egyptian people after they have known their way to freedom.”

El-Assar also said that the military council is not interfering in any way in the judicial process of the trials against Mubarak and his sons. El-Assar affirmed that the military had initially specified that the interim period would take six months, but it yielded to the demands of some of the newly founded political parties and movements to postpone the parliamentary elections in order for those emerging political forces to have more time to prepare for the elections, adding that the council had insisted on a rather short transitional period because it needs to get back to focusing on its original tasks.

In response to the issue of assistance provided by the United States directly to NGOs in Egypt, El-Assar said that the new US ambassador in Egypt, Anne Patterson, had informed him that the United States has provided $105 million for these organisations to help them participate in political life in Egypt. He explained that this aid has led to a state of confusion among the Egyptian public because the funds are not subject to the supervision of the government since they went to non-governmental organisations, some of which are non-registered, and thus the way of spending those funds is not known and so this “represents a danger, in light of the recent incidents where many police weaponry was lost, and about 20 thousand prisoners escaped from the prisons of Egypt following the events experienced by the country.” He also noted that the objective of this assistance has not been achieved at all levels; and that it only works to confuse the Egyptian people on the street.

El-Assar stressed that the military’s choice is to not direct its weapons against the people, which it is working to achieve in every way, despite the “actions of some of the participants in the demonstrations that led to the injury of a number of military men.” El-Assar reiterated that the council is committed to handing over the reins of the country to a civilian authority. In response to a question about the role of the army in the recent clashes that took place the Abbassiya district, El-Assar said the army forces were forming a barrier between the demonstrators and the owners of shops and businesses in Abbassiya, who wanted to defend Abbassiya from becoming another version of Tahrir Square, because most shops and businesses there have stopped working and workers have become unemployed as a result. “The shop owners did not want the same to happen to them in Abbasiya,” he explained.

Answering a question about concerns of the participation of the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt's political life, El-Assar said that the group, like any other political movement, has the right to participate, provided they do not use religion and religious slogans in their political work.

On the regional level, El-Assar said that peace is a strategic option for Egypt and that it is an irreversible one, but pointed out that Israel must take into account the changes Egypt has witnessed, and that the Egyptian people are "looking to achieve their interests.” Furthermore, El-Assar said that Egypt is currently witnessing a conflict in the demands of different political voices, and that Israel must be aware of this current discrepancy. El-Assar also denied that the four incidents of bombing the gas pipeline that reaches out to Israel and Jordan may have any “political suspicions”. He also mentioned that there was no evidence that Al-Qaeda had any involvement in the incidents.

El-Assar stated that Egypt is currently considering sending humanitarian aid to the east of Libya, but affirmed that Egypt is not seeking to intervene in Libya militarily. He also answered a question about nuclear weapons in the Middle East by saying that the Middle East region in its entirety should be cleared of nuclear weapons, but through assuming “no double standards that would exclude any party from the process.”

The Egyptian delegation is also scheduled to meet with representatives from the Pentagon as well as a number of Congress senators.

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