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Top US official to visit Cairo after Morsi ouster

15 july 2013, 13:46
0
©AFP
©AFP
A top US official was heading to Cairo on Sunday for talks with interim government leaders, the first high-ranking administration member to visit Egypt since the ouster of Mohamed Morsi, AFP reports.

Under Secretary of State Bill Burns will visit Egypt from Sunday to Tuesday, the State Department said, adding that he would "underscore US support for the Egyptian people."

The news came as caretaker premier Hazem al-Beblawi resumed talks on forming his cabinet, 11 days after Morsi was ousted in a July 3 military coup amid massive protests against his year-long rule.

Prominent liberal leader Mohamed ElBaradei, who assisted in the talks Beblawi began a day earlier with ministerial candidates, was sworn in as interim vice president for foreign relations on Sunday, the Egyptian presidency said.

In a brief statement, the State Department said Burns would "meet with interim government officials as well as civil society and business leaders.

"In all these meetings, he will underscore US support for the Egyptian people, an end to all violence, and a transition leading to an inclusive, democratically elected civilian government."

On Friday, the United States for the first time called for Morsi's release, and again condemned a wave of arbitrary arrests of members of his Muslim Brotherhood.

But since the July 3 ouster, Washington has struggled to define whether Egypt's first democratically elected president was the victim of a coup, which would legally force a freeze on some $1.5 billion in vital military and economic US assistance to Cairo.

Two influential Republican US lawmakers, Senator Lindsey Graham and Senator John McCain in an opinion article Sunday urged the administration to cut off aid to Cairo in response to the coup.

"Egypt is not just any country. It is the heart and soul of the Arab world, and the stability of Egypt is a critical US national interest," the Republican lawmakers wrote in the Washington Post.

"We must recognize, as President (Barack) Obama said, that 'the best foundation for lasting stability in Egypt is a democratic political order with participation from all sides and all political parties -- secular and religious, civilian and military,'" wrote Graham and McCain, the Republican presidential candidate in 2008.

"That is all the more reason suspending US assistance to Egypt is both right and necessary," they said.

Officials said last week Washington was pressing ahead with plans to deliver four F-16 fighters to Egypt -- assistance which was in the works before Morsi's ouster.

Last week the United States said it was "cautiously encouraged"by a timeline presented by the interim rulers for elections to replace Morsi.

Washington has insisted it is not taking sides in Egypt's political turmoil, and that its role is to help return a key regional ally to a democratically elected civilian government.

Egypt is one of only two Arab nations with a peace treaty with Israel, and its military also guards the strategic Suez Canal.

President Barack Obama on Tuesday reached out to several key leaders in the region, calling Qatar's new emir Sheikh Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani and Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al-Nahayan.

In both calls, he urged the leaders to use their influence in Egypt to press each side in the political standoff to avoid violence and to hasten the return of a democratic government.

The transition plan, set up by Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour, would see fresh parliamentary elections in the coming months, with a presidential vote possible by early next year.

Obama also spoke with Saudi King Abdullah on Friday during which "they agreed that the United States and Saudi Arabia have a shared interest in supporting Egypt's stability," the White House said in a statement.

During the 12 months of Morsi's rule, Washington was increasingly frustrated by the Islamist leader's failure to institute an inclusive government meeting the demands of Egyptians who led the 2011 revolution to end three decades of autocratic rule by Hosni Mubarak.

But it was caught in a dilemma, wishing also to support the nation's first democratically elected leader.

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