August 01, 2012
U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said on Tuesday he was convinced Egypt’s new Islamist president was committed to democratic reform, promising that Washington would continue to provide the country’s army with significant financial aid.
Speaking after meeting Mohamed Mursi, the president, in Cairo for the first time as well as Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s top general, Panetta said he had used his meeting with Mursi to discuss issues such as border security and the threat from violent extremism.
“I was convinced that President Mursi is his own man and ... that he is truly committed to implementing democratic reforms here in Egypt,” said Panetta.
He said he believed “that President Mursi and Field Marshal Tantawi have a very good relationship and are working together towards the same ends.”
Panetta’s visit comes amid political uncertainty and a power struggle between the military and the Muslim Brotherhood that is casting a shadow over the future of a country that remains without a permanent constitution, parliament or government.
Panetta said Washington was keen to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and made it clear that U.S. military aid to Egypt - worth $1.3bn a year - would continue to flow.
“It was clear to me both from Field Marshal Tantawi and President Mursi that they too are committed in continuing in that relationship and our goal frankly is an Egypt that can secure itself in the region so it can be a strong democracy in the future,” Panetta told reporters.
The military took power last year after the fall of staunch U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak and handed Mursi the leadership in June after he won what was regarded as the country’s first democratic election.