Global Politics

Egypt's New President Vows to Free Omar Abdel-Rahman

Marco Werman: I'm Marco Werman, this is The World. Egypt's new leader was in a defiant mood today in Cairo's Tahrir Square. President-elect Muhammad Morsi is to be officially sworn in tomorrow but today he read an informal oath of office before a crowd of tens of thousands in the square. Many of those in the crowd, like Morsi, were members of the Muslim Brotherhood and Morsi told them that they are the real power in Egypt. The BBC's John Lyons in Cairo describes the scene.

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John Lyons: It was a very unique spectacle because, strange to say to a democratic nation, Egyptians aren't used to seeing their president and most Egyptians will never have seen the president face-to-face and will rarely even have seen him on television; Hosni Mubarak was that remote in the three decades of his rule. So for the first time, they are, they are literally having a face-to-face experience with their own president and he absolutely milked that. Muhammad Morsi was standing behind a lectern podium with a presidential seal of office on it but as he got into his stride he moved away, pushed his security guards aside, said, "Look I'm here, I'm a man of the people,"  took microphone in hand and even opened his jacket to show the crowd that he wasn't wearing a bullet proof vest, he wasn't afraid of them, stressing that he was a man of the people and that his authority came from the people right in front of him.

Werman: Wow that sounds pretty dramatic. I mean, what about his comment about getting Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman freed from prison in the United States?

Lyons: Well that will go down very well with the crowd in Egypt and not so well, I suspect, in the United States, frankly. He was careful in this speech to be mostly pretty pragmatic actually, but at the same time to assert his independence and independence of his new movement. I think realistically he must now there's a very remote chance of that happening, of course Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman has been convicted of courts of law in the United States so there's no way one can see that he would be released and moved to Egypt. So he's speaking to the crowd here as he did on many other issues, like wanting the disillusion of parliament to be overturned, again something that's not going to happen, but at the same time he was also giving a reassurance to all of America's international partners for example, there's no threat to end the peace treaty with Israel although he hasn't actually mentioned it absolutely specifically and they want to maintain good relations with the United States. Before the election they sent out emissaries around Europe to the United States to reassure all those old, traditional, western allies that the Muslim Brotherhood would not be a radical change in Egypt's foreign policy.

Werman: I mean Egypt has numerous pressing demands at home, were there promises Morsi made to Tahrir Square that did resonate sort of at a domestic level for the crowd?

Lyons: I think one thing that really struck me above all, he said every institution of government, their first aim will be to work for the dignity of all Egyptians. That's a great promise, now if he can fulfill that or even repeat it in a year's time, we'll have to wait and see but I think that is exactly what the whole revolution was about and that's exactly what people want to hear from him. For decades, frankly, this country's had rulers, particularly one ruler Hosni Mubarak, who treated them with almost open contempt and I think this message will be extremely welcome. As I said, it depends how it is put into practice and there's extreme difficulties on the way in terms of relations with the military, in terms a rusty, broken, and drenched old bureaucracy that mainly works for its own interest, but at least he's saying the right thing.

Werman: The BBC's John Lyons in Cairo, thank you so much.

Lyons: My pleasure.

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