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Egypt working towards political reconciliation, El-Sisi tells US

Egypt's army chief assures the US Pentagon that the military-backed caretaker regime in Cairo seeks inclusive political reconciliation

Reuters , Saturday 3 Aug 2013
inister of Defence Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi (Photo: Ahram Online archive)
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Egyptian army chief General Abdel-Fattah El-Sisi told the United States Saturday that the new army-backed Egyptian leadership is working towards political reconciliation following the military overthrow of former president Mohamed Morsi 3 July, the Pentagon said Saturday.

El-Sisi made the comments during a telephone conversation with US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in which the Pentagon chief expressed concern about violence in Egypt after the military toppled Islamist Morsi.

Hagel urged El-Sisi to support an inclusive political process, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

"General El-Sisi assured Secretary Hagel that Egyptian authorities were working towards a process of political reconciliation," Little said.

"General El-Sisi affirmed to Secretary Hagel that Egypt's leadership remains committed to the political roadmap leading to elections and the formation of a constitution in Egypt."

El-Sisi also said he was looking forward to meeting US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns during his visit to Cairo.

The Pentagon's latest account of the regular conversations between Hagel and El-Sisi came the same day The Washington Post quoted El-Sisi as accusing the Obama administration of failing to properly support Egypt, despite threats of civil war.

"You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that," El-Sisi was quoted as saying. "Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?"

In the interview, El-Sisi made it clear he did not "aspire for authority" — taken to be an allusion to the presidency.

The United States has walked a delicate line on Egypt, opting against labeling Morsi's removal a "coup" — something that would trigger a cut-off in aid and could alienate Washington from the Egyptian military, which benefits from $1.3 billion in annual US military aid.

But US ties with Egypt's armed forces have shown signs of strain, including President Barack Obama's decision last month to halt delivery of four F-16 fighter jets.

Hagel said Wednesday that the United States still plans to hold a major military exercise called Bright Star in Egypt mid-September.

The joint drill, dating back to 1981, is seen as a cornerstone of US-Egyptian military relations and began after the Camp David Accords established peace between Egypt and Israel.

The exercise, held every two years, was cancelled in 2011 because of political turmoil in Egypt following the ouster of longtime autocrat and US ally Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolution.

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