Panetta: New Egyptian President is ‘His Own Man’
By Jim Garamone
American Forces Press Service
CAIRO, July 31, 2012 Egyptian President Muhammad Mursi “is his own man” and is committed to implementing democratic reforms in his country, Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said here today.
Panetta met with Mursi, the first democratically elected leader of Egypt, at the presidential palace today. Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, Egypt’s defense minister, also attended the meetings.
Mursi ran for the presidency as the candidate of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood. During a news conference, Panetta said he came away from the meeting “convinced that President Mursi is his own man.”
“He is the president of all the Egyptian people and he is truly committed to implementing democratic reforms,” the secretary added.
In his view, Panetta said, Mursi and Tantawi have a good relationship and are working together toward the same goal. He stressed the United States strongly supports an orderly, peaceful and legitimate transition to a democratic system of government in Egypt.
He also praised Tantawi’s leadership in overseeing a peaceful, free and fair presidential election. “I was pleased to hear Field Marshal Tantawi confirm his continuing commitment to transition to full civilian rule,” Panetta said.
Tantawi served as the chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and was Egypt’s de facto head of state following the February 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. He has turned that office over to Mursi.
The United States has an interest in seeing Egypt succeed, Panetta said. The secretary stressed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt defense relationship and the strong military-to-military relationship. “It has been an anchor of regional stability for more than 30 years, and a positive force during this transition,” he said.
The United States has a strong military training and education program with Egypt and a robust exercise schedule. Egypt fought alongside American troops in Operation Desert Storm, and continues to provide invaluable counterterrorism assistance.
The United States and Egypt share a range of security concerns, from violent extremism to securing Egypt’s borders. “We agreed that these challenges are best confronted cooperatively,” Panetta said.
The leaders agreed that a secure and stable Egypt -- the largest Arab country -- is good for the region and the world. Security also is key to allowing Egyptians to build the democratic institutions necessary to guarantee the freedoms and rights of the people.
“We have a history of working with the Egyptian military leadership. We will continue to provide the aid and assistance we can to help them in this effort,” Panetta said. “Our goal, frankly, is an Egypt that can secure itself in the region.”
This was Panetta’s second trip to Egypt as defense secretary.