Egypt Talks Hit A Bump
CAIRO – Secular and liberal factions trying to install one of their own as Egypt’s new prime minister collided into strong resistance Sunday from the sole Islamist faction that backed the military’s ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, reflecting the difficulties in building a broad coalition behind a new leadership.
As wrangling continued over the prime minister spot, giant rallies by the movements that pushed out Morsi took on a sharply nationalist tone, pervaded with posters of the military’s chief and denunciations of the United States and President Barack Obama for what they see as their backing of the Islamist leader.
The show of strength in the streets was aimed at fending off a determined campaign by Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, which brought out its own supporters Sunday in large protests.
Warning that the military is turning Egypt into a “totalitarian state,” Brotherhood officials vowed to stay on the streets to reverse what they call a coup against democracy and restore Egypt’s first freely elected president to office.
Military warplanes swooped over the anti-Morsi crowd filling Cairo’s Tahrir Square, drawing a heart shape and an Egyptian flag in the sky with colored smoke. Large banners read “Obama, hands off, a message to the USA. Obama supports the terrorists of 911” with a picture of Obama with an Islamists’ beard.
Throughout Morsi’s year in office, many of his opponents accused the United States of backing his administration. Washington often underlined that it was dealing with Morsi as the country’s elected leader.
Before the wave of anti-Morsi protests began on June 30, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson said in a speech that she was “deeply skeptical” protests would be fruitful. She defended U.S. relations with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood as necessary because the group is part of the democratically elected government.
Since Morsi’s removal Wednesday, Washington has tread carefully, expressing concern without outright calling the army’s move a coup or denouncing Morsi’s ouster. On Saturday, the White House said in a statement that it rejects “false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed,” saying it is committed to Egyptians’ aspirations for democracy.
The widespread appearance of anti-American slogans in Tahrir had a double-edged message: painting the Brotherhood as a tool of Washington and pushing back against U.S. concerns over the military’s moves.
Obama “must know that this is a popular revolution,” said Shawki Ibrahim, a 37-year-old in Tahrir with a portrait of army chief Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi dangling from his neck.
“The United States should support the people’s will and not the interest of a person or a group seeking only their own interest,” he said.