Egypt working toward political reconciliation, Sisi tells U.S

WASHINGTON Sat Aug 3, 2013 12:19pm EDT

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo on the release of seven members of the Egyptian security forces kidnapped by Islamist militants in Sinai, May 22, 2013. REUTERS/Stringer

Abdel Fattah al-Sisi is seen during a news conference in Cairo on the release of seven members of the Egyptian security forces kidnapped by Islamist militants in Sinai, May 22, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Stringer

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the United States on Saturday that the new army-installed Egyptian leadership was working toward political reconciliation following the military overthrow of the president on July 3, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

Sisi's made the comments during a telephone conversation with U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, in which the Pentagon chief expressed concern about violence in Egypt after the military toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

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

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

"General al-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."

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

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

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

The United States has walked a delicate line on Egypt, opting against labeling Mursi'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 U.S. military aid.

But U.S. 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 on Wednesday that the United States still plans to hold a major military exercise called Bright Star in Egypt in mid-September.

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

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

(Reporting by Phil Stewart)

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