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Obama urges political calm in Cairo as Egyptians protest in US cities

White House spokesman comments diplomatically on Morsi v opposition power struggle crisis ahead of likely divisive clashes in Egypt, relaying message from President Obama for political calm

Ahram Online , Tuesday 27 Nov 2012
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President Barack Obama speaks during an interview with The Associated Press at the White House on 23 August 2012. (Photo: AP)
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US President Barack Obama has called for political calm in Egypt to peacefully overcome the power struggle between Islamists and opposition that heated up after the announcement of a controversial Constitutional Declaration, White House spokesman Jay Carney said on late Monday.

"We've raised concerns about some of the decisions and declarations that were made on 22 November," he added, diplomatically. "And we continue to engage with the Egyptians on this. I think the important issue here is the Egyptian people want a government that reflects their will."

On Thursday, Morsi, who hails from the Muslim Brotherhood, issued a decree making all his decisions immune from legal challenges for a six-month period.

The decree also protects the Islamist-led Constituent Assembly (tasked with drafting a new constitution) and the Shura Council (the upper house of parliament) from being dissolved by the judiciary - which is currently reviewing the constitutionality of both bodies.

Morsi's surprise Constitutional Declaration prompted an uproar among the opposition, who described it as an attack on democracy.

In a briefing to reporters, Carney pointed out that Morsi "played a vital role" in brokering the late Palestinian-Israeli ceasefire, which "saved lives," paved the way for moving forward on negotiations to reach a more enduring peace.  

Egypt's political crisis came only days after Morsi was being toasted by world leaders for his diplomatic skill and moderation in helping forge a ceasefire between Gaza's Islamist rulers and Israel following a bloody eight-day escalated conflict.

The US Senator John McCain warned on Sunday that Egypt could become an Islamist state or face another military takeover if Morsi's judicial "power grab" is left unchecked.

McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, urged Obama to be prepared to spend billions in American aid as leverage to force Egypt's first Islamist leader to change course.

Asked about the chance of a new Islamist state in Egypt, McCain replied: "I think it could be headed that way. You also could be headed back into a military takeover if things went in the wrong direction. You could also see a scenario where there is continued chaos."

Morsi, who rose to power through the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was elected Egypt's first Islamist leader in June; yet, he is still vying for control over the country.

The crisis, which comes less than two years after strongman Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular revolt, has sparked fears of new violence in the Arab world's most populous state.

In a related development, dozens of Egyptians protested in the US capital Washington DC, as well as the state of Virginia and Maryland, against the president and pressing for him to retract the declaration and desist the "use of violence" against peaceful protesters.

The protesters said the new constitutional document is a real threat to Egypt's new democracy and pushes the country into an "ambiguous future," and called on the United States to stop backing the ruling authority in light of the current regime's moves to impose a stronghold on the state.

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