CAIRO (AP) — Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday that Egypt’s new president and its military chief have reassured him they will steer the country to full democracy.
“It’s clear that Egypt, following the revolution, is committed to putting into place a democratic government,” Panetta told reporters after meetings in Cairo with President Mohammed Morsi and Field Marshal Mohammed Hussein Tantawi.
It was Panetta’s first encounter with Morsi, the Muslim Brotherhood candidate who assumed the presidency in June. Panetta said it was clear to him that Morsi is “his own man.”
But Panetta also offered praise to Tantawi, the country’s military leader.
“Tantawi ‘s leadership, I believe, has been critical in overseeing a peaceful free and fair elections,” Panetta said, noting he was pleased with Tantawi’s stated commitment to full civilian rule.
Panetta said both Egyptian leaders told him they will continue their country’s cooperation with the United States in fighting the al-Qaida terrorist network.
The defense chief arrived in Cairo Tuesday seeking assurance that the country will remain a military partner at a time of political tumult in the Middle East and growing worry about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Panetta’s visit comes on the heels of one by Secretary of State Hillary Rodman Clinton, who was the first member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet to meet with Morsi since his election.
Clinton said in Washington on Monday that the jury was out on whether Egypt’s Islamist political parties will equally represent non-Muslims. She said the Obama administration’s future relationship with Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood party would depend on how they respect the rights of Coptic Christians, women and other minorities.
Speaking to the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace, Clinton said Egypt was still grappling with the challenge of religious liberty as it seeks to establish a democracy after decades of dictatorship.
In his talks Tuesday, Panetta stressed U.S. support for the completion of a transition to civilian democratic rule, and to gauge Morsi’s interest in maintaining longstanding U.S.-Egyptian military relations.
Panetta was last in Cairo in October, after the fall of long-time autocrat President Hosni Mubarak but prior to Morsi’s election.
After his Cairo meetings Panetta was headed to Israel for talks with Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, President Shimon Peres and Defense Minister Ehud Barak. A potential Israeli military attack on Iran’s nuclear sites was expected to be a major topic, but Panetta also planned to discuss with the Israelis the progress they are making on building an air defense system, known as the Iron Dome, which is designed to shoot down short-range rockets and artillery shells.
Asked about news reports in Israel that Panetta plans to share American plan for potential war with Iran when he meets with Israeli leaders Wednesday in Jerusalem, Panetta said that is a “wrong characterization” of what he will talk about.
He said his talks in Jerusalem will be “more about what is the threat we are confronting” in Iran’s nuclear program and sharing intelligence information.
Panetta arrived in Cairo from Tunisia, where he held talks with that North African country’s new Islamist leaders. He plans to end his trip with a stop Thursday in Jordan. U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta is seeking assurances from Egypt’s new Islamist government that the country will remain a military partner at a time of political tumult in the Middle East and growing worry about Iran’s nuclear ambitions.
Associated Press writer Sarah el-Deeb contributed to this report.
More Related Stories
- Developers evict historic women's shelter to build luxury hotel
- Kaitlyn Hunt refuses plea offer, will go to court over high school relationship
- DHS admits "impossible" to control 3D-printed guns
- Journalists file suit against Manning trial secrecy
- Russia: Syrian regime ready to talk peace
- Report: Nearly a quarter of all Americans struggle to afford food
- Ted Cruz against the world
- Louie Gohmert: Women should be forced to carry nonviable pregnancies to term
- 2 men arrested for endangering commercial aircraft
- Oversized load blamed for bridge collapse
- This is what Guy Fieri looks like as a balloon
- Iran hackers aiming at U.S. energy firms
- Lawyers release data in attempt to discredit Trayvon Martin
- Anonymous rallies behind Kaitlyn Hunt
- Bridge collapse: Part of "aging infrastructure"
- Mistrial in penalty phase of Arias case
- Amanda Bynes arrested after hurling bong from window
- Interstate 5 bridge collapses north of Seattle
- Mississippi could begin prosecuting women for miscarriages
- Teenage girl claims she was beaten up for looking like Taylor Swift
- UK Military: London attack victim was a "model soldier"
Featured Slide Shows
The week in 10 picsclose X
- 1 of 11
Lisa Montgomery embraces her nephew Thursday after a tornado tore apart her home in Cleburne, Texas. The twister killed six people and destroyed entire swaths of the North Texas town.
Credit: AP/LM Otero
Jack McMahon, the defense attorney for abortion doctor Kermit Gosnell, speaks outside the Criminal Justice Center in Philadelphia Tuesday. His client was convicted of killing three babies in his clinic, and will serve multiple life sentences.
Credit: AP/Matt Rourke
A photo taken Monday captures Vice President Joe Biden's response to a Milwaukee second-grader's innovative proposal to end America's epidemic of gun violence. This guy!
Credit: AP/Jenny Aicher
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky., flanked by a grouper-eyed Michele Bachmann, addresses the IRS' admission that it targeted Tea Party groups in advance of the 2012 election. In an op-ed for CNN Thursday, the Kentucky senator slammed the president for his faux outrage.
Credit: AP/Molly Riley
Ousted IRS chief Steven Miller is sworn in on Capitol Hill Friday. Miller testified before the House Ways and Means Committee on the extra scrutiny the agency gave conservative groups applying for tax-exempt status.
Credit: AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Attorney General Eric Holder pauses as he testifies on Capitol Hill before the House Judiciary Committee Wednesday. Holder is under fire, among other things, for the Justice Department's gathering of phone records at the Associated Press.
Credit: AP/Carolyn Kaster
O.J. Simpson sits during an evidentiary hearing at Clark County District Court in Las Vegas, Nev., Thursday. Simpson, who is currently serving a nine-to-33-year sentence in state prison for armed robbery and kidnapping, is using a writ of habeas corpus to seek a new trial.
Credit: AP/Las Vegas Review-Journal/Jeff Scheid
Major Tom to ground control: On Sunday astronaut Chris Hadfield recorded the first music video from space, a cover of David Bowie's "Space Oddity."
Credit: AP/NASA/Chris Hadfield
When it rains it pours. President Barack Obama speaks during a news conference Thursday with Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan, inexplicably inspiring an #umbrellagate Twitter meme.
Credit: AP/Jacquelyn Martin
A smoke plume rises high above a road block at the intersection of County A and Ross Road east of Solon Springs, Wis., Tuesday. No injuries were reported, but the the wildfire caused evacuations across northwestern Wisconsin.
Credit: AP/The Duluth News-Tribune/Clint Austin
Recent Slide Shows
- 1 of 11