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World leaders call for swift return to democracy in Egypt


World leaders expressed their concern over the Egyptian army’s ousting of the country’s first democratically elected president, Mohammed Morsi, on Wednesday, calling for a swift return to democracy.


Following the Egyptian army’s Wednesday overthrow of President Mohammed Morsi – the country’s first democratically elected president -- world leaders expressed their concern over the dramatic turn of events and for Egypt’s immediate future.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a swift return to civilian rule, restraint and respect for civil rights.

“Many Egyptians in their protests have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns ... At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any state is of concern,” Ki-moon said.

US President Barack Obama, whose administration gives $1.3 billion to the Egyptian military each year, called for a swift return to a democratically elected civilian government.

“We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsi and suspend the Egyptian constitution. I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters,” Obama said in a statement published on Wednesday.

“During this uncertain period, we expect the military to ensure that the rights of all Egyptian men and women are protected, including the right to peaceful assembly, due process, and free and fair trials in civilian courts,” he added.

Obama also said that he had instructed the appropriate departments and agencies to review whether the Egyptian military’s actions could impact US aid to the country. A senator involved in aid decisions said the United States would cut off its financial support if the intervention was deemed a military “coup,” highlighting the importance of the strict definition of the word.

Concerns over human rights have clouded US ties with Cairo in previous years, but did not stop aid flowing to former Egyptian president Hosni Mubarak, or to Morsi.

The European Union, Egypt’s biggest civilian aid donor, also called for a rapid return to the democratic process. Foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton said in a statement that should mean “free and fair presidential and parliamentary elections and the approval of a constitution". 

She stressed the need for inclusive politics but did not mention the constitution and elections already held in the past two years, whose results the armed forces have now cast aside.

Meanwhile, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, who has been fighting to crush a two-year-old uprising against his leadership, described the upheaval in Egypt as a defeat for political Islam.

“Whoever brings religion to use in politics or in favour of one group at the expense of another will fall anywhere in the world,” Assad was quoted as telling the official Thawra newspaper, according to an official Facebook page.

“The summary of what is happening in Egypt is the fall of what is called political Islam.”

(FRANCE 24 with wires)

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