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Egypt ousts Mursi, creating dilemma for West

Egyptians elected Mohamed Mursi as president in a vote held just a year ago. On Wednesday, the country's military overthrew his government. Many celebrated his departure, while others worried about the transition away from a democratically-elected government.

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U.S. President Barack Obama, whose administration provides $1.3 billion a year to the Egyptian military, expressed deep concern about Mursi's removal and called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government. But he stopped short of condemning a military move that could block U.S. aid.

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"During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts," he said.

Obama urged the new authorities to avoid arbitrary arrests and said U.S. agencies would review whether the military action would trigger sanctions on aid. A senator involved in aid decisions said the United State would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military coup.

Much may depend on a strict definition of "coup."

Sisi, head of Egypt's armed forces, stressed that the army acted to enforce the will of the people. They demonstrated in the millions against Mursi this week. Sisi said the president had failed to heed their demands.

Washington's senior general, Martin Dempsey, said that if the move by Sisi, a graduate of the U.S. Army War College, was seen as a coup it would affect relations: "There will be consequences if it is badly handled," he told CNN. "There's laws that bind us on how we deal with these kinds of situations."

Concerns over human rights have clouded U.S. relations with Cairo, but did not stop aid flowing to Mubarak, or to Mursi.

The European Union, the biggest civilian aid donor to its near neighbour, also called for a rapid return to the democratic process. Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that should mean "free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and the approval of a constitution."

She did not mention the constitution and elections already held in the past two years, whose results the armed forces have now cast aside. Constitutional court president Adli Mansour was to be sworn in as head of state at 10 a.m. (0800 GMT).

Revolution 

The liberals' chief negotiator with the army, former U.N. diplomat Mohamed ElBaradei, said the programme agreed with the generals would ensure the continuation of the revolution.

Sisi said: "Those in the meeting have agreed on a road map for the future that includes initial steps to achieve the building of a strong Egyptian society that is cohesive and does not exclude anyone and ends the state of tension and division."

Sisi was flanked by his uniformed high command but also by a senior Muslim cleric, the pope of Egypt's Coptic Church and political leaders ranging from liberals to a bearded Islamist representative from the ultra-Islamic Nour Party. Also present were youth leaders who were given special mention by Sisi.

Reflecting the hopes of the "revolutionary youth" who led the charge against Mubarak, only to see the electoral machine of the Brotherhood dominate the new democracy, the young man who proved Mursi's extraordinary nemesis said the new transitional period must not repeat the mistakes of the recent past.

"We want to build Egypt with everyone and for everyone," said Mahmoud Badr, a 28-year-old journalist who first had the idea two months ago for a petition calling on Mursi to resign. By last weekend, the "Tamarud - Rebel!" movement was claiming 22 million backers, many of whom were on the streets on Sunday.

The army had already grown increasingly alarmed about Mursi dragging Egypt into the sectarian conflict in Syria and the turnout on the streets gave Sisi his justification for handing the president a 48-hour deadline to share power or lose it.

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