Egypt's Morsi: Tantawi must go for 'benefit of nation'


Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi in Cairo, Egypt on July 8, 2012.



Egypt's President Mohammed Morsi characterized recent moves to consolidate power and retire the country's mighty Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi as made for the "benefit of this nation" in a nationally-televised speech late Sunday, reported BBC News

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The military appeared to be going along with Morsi's plans for the immediate retirement of Tantawi, one of the nation's most powerful figures, and his aide, General Sami Annan. Egypt’s official news agency on Sunday quoted a military official as saying there has been no “negative reaction” from within the armed forces, the Associated Press reported. On Monday, a Facebook posting on a "page known to be close to the country’s former military rulers" described the changes as part of a natural progression of leadership, according to the AP.

The AP also noted that Morsi appointed Tantawi and Annan as presidential advisers and awarded them some of the nation’s highest honors, "something that suggested they agreed, perhaps grudgingly, in advance" to the shake-up.

However, it was unclear how the Supreme Constitutional Court would react to the new president's attempt to revoke recent sweeping changes to the constitutional declaration — an important document serving as a kind of interim constitution until Egypt finally has its own. The amendments, issued on the cusp of Morsi's election, effectively stripped his position of significant political power. 

Morsi also named a senior judge — Mahmoud Mekki, whom Ahram Online described as "reformist" — as vice president.

The bold moves speak to a growing power struggle between Morsi and the country's ruling military, an institution deeply entrenched in Egyptian political life and which took over control of the country's following the historic overthrow of longitime President Hosni Mubarak last year. 

Morsi, speaking on the Sunday anniversary of Laylat Al-Qadr, the night marking the beginning of Koranic revelations Musilmes believe were given to Prophet Mohammed, said "decisions I took today were not meant ever to target certain persons, nor did I intend to embarrass institutions, nor was my aim to narrow freedoms," according to Ahram Online. The event, held in Cairo's Azhar, was attended by hundreds of senior clerics. 

"My decision was never meant to embarrass any state institutions; we must remain loyal to those who were loyal, and I meant no negative message towards anyone," Ahram Online cited Morsi as saying. "We're aiming for stability, security and national revival. We're moving towards a better future," he said, warning that the situation in Sinai, where 16 Egyptian border guards were recently killed, must be closely monitored by the army and in what he earlier described as their "sacred role of protecting the nation."

The President earlier ordered the commanders of the navy, air defense and air force to retire, said AP. Morsi was sworn into office on June 30.