U.S. defense chief voices concern in call to Egypt army head

WASHINGTON Sun Dec 29, 2013 7:55pm EST

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks to reporters at the Al Udeid Airbase, west of Doha December 10, 2013. REUTERS/Mark Wilson/Pool

U.S. Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel speaks to reporters at the Al Udeid Airbase, west of Doha December 10, 2013.

Credit: Reuters/Mark Wilson/Pool

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WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The top U.S. defense official expressed "concern" about recent developments in Egypt in a call on Sunday to Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the Pentagon said.

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel expressed his condolences for the victims of a spate of recent bomb attacks in Egypt, and offered U.S. assistance to investigate the incidents, a Pentagon spokesman said in a statement.

A bomb exploded outside an Egyptian army building north of Cairo on Sunday, the latest in a series of violent incidents in Egypt.

The Egyptian Army labeled the incident a terrorist attack, but did not name the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist group it declared a terrorist organization last week.

In his call with Sisi, Hagel also "stressed the role of political inclusiveness," and the two men discussed "the balance between security and freedom," spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in the statement.

"Secretary Hagel also expressed concerns about the political climate in advance of the constitutional referendum, including the continued enforcement of a restrictive demonstrations law," Rear Admiral John Kirby said.

Egypt's army-backed government has used the new classification to detained hundreds of supporters of the Muslim Brotherhood, and thousands more are already in jail.

The terrorist classification was the government's latest move to crack down on the Islamist group following the ouster of former President Mohamed Mursi in July.

As friction grows between supporters and opponents of the Brotherhood, officials have also warned Egyptians against participating in protests in support of the group. Street clashes have killed seven people in the last three days.

The Brotherhood, which has estimated its membership at up to a million people, was Egypt's best organized political force until this summer's crackdown. A political and social movement founded in 1928, it won five elections after the downfall of President Hosni Mubarak in 2011.

Under the government's political transition plan, a referendum is planned for mid-January on a new constitution, followed by parliamentary polls and a presidential election.

(Reporting by Missy Ryan; Editing by Eric Walsh)

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Comments (4)
SKYDRIFTER wrote:
Hmmmm – apparently the U.S. desperately needs Egypt to provide a political and/or military footprint for the USA in the region. Obama must have really screwed the pooch with the Saudis.

The Muslim Brotherhood is a “regional” and brutal organization; greatly feared by the Saudis – among others. The MB activities are NOT limited to Egypt.

Until Morsi came along, the MB was keeping a very low profile in Egypt. Even if the MB is driven back underground, the Egyptian government still has its work cut out for them.

Few “Westerners” appreciate that “Islam” is (most commonly) intolerant of corruption. Thus, Islam is commonly viewed as the viable alternative to the usual/traditional corruption of a secular government.

However brutal Sharia Law may be, it’s commonly preferable to the secular system. Thus, when ‘terrorist’ Islamic groups move into an area, the ‘smart’ ones provide the local population with whatever they can – demanding fealty, of course.

The major problem in the Middle East is the battle between the two ‘main’ Islamic groups; the Sunnis & Shiias.

Unfortunately, as human nature goes, killing in the name of God persists. Rather like using B-52s and ‘cruise missiles’ to deliver the “gift” of Democracy.

Strange that Hagel is schmoozing Egypt; what’s the deal with Kerry? Oh yes, no one in their right mind would trust Kerry. Hagel’s the man for Egypt.

Dec 29, 2013 9:47pm EST  --  Report as abuse
StephanLarose wrote:
The Egyptian army is not handling this well, violence begets violence, instability in Egypt will only continue to rise.

Dec 30, 2013 2:37am EST  --  Report as abuse
BanglaFirst wrote:
Evil devil Al Sisi is a criminal and he does not deserve a call from a democratic Nation like US which should cut off all aids to this evil man and his regime because he is a turn-coat and 100% criminal who deserves the firing squad for all the deaths he has caused in Egypt.

Dec 30, 2013 4:35am EST  --  Report as abuse
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