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Egyptian Military's Sissi Denounces US

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Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi hold a large Egyptian national flag as they chant slogans against Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Aug. 2, 2013.

Supporters of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi hold a large Egyptian national flag as they chant slogans against Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, in Cairo, Aug. 2, 2013.

Egyptian military chief Abdel Fattah el-Sissi has strongly criticized the United States for refusing to explicitly endorse his ouster of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi last month.

In a rare interview granted to a foreign news organization, an angry Sissi told The Washington Post that the Obama administration "turned (its) back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that."

The comments, published Saturday, were made as Washington attempted to remain neutral in Egypt's political crisis between the Sissi-backed interim government and the Islamist supporters of the ousted president.

Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood movement also has criticized the Obama administration, accusing it of acquiescing to a coup against the former president, whom the military forced from power on July 3.

Washington has declined to call the ouster a "coup" as doing so would force it to cut an estimated $1.3 billion in annual aid to Egypt, a key U.S. military ally.

In the interview, Sissi, who also serves as defense minister, urged the United States to press Egyptian Islamists to end a month-long series of protests and sit-ins against the ouster of Morsi.

U.S. Deputy Secretary of State William Burns met with allies of Morsi and held separate talks with interim Egyptian leaders in Cairo on Saturday as part of Western efforts to mediate between the two sides. EU special envoy Bernardino Leon also joined the meetings. They marked the second visit by Burns to Egypt in recent weeks.

The Pentagon said Sissi assured U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel in a phone call that Egypt's interim government is "working toward a process of national reconciliation."

Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy said the government has "no desire" to use force to clear two protest camps occupied by tens of thousands of Morsi supporters in Cairo.

Speaking to reporters on Saturday, Fahmy said all political groups are invited to take part in implementing the government's road map for restoring democracy, if those groups renounce violence.

"We cannot truly achieve reconciliation, no matter how hard we try, if there is a continuation of incitement of violence or a continuation of violence out on the street, and that will obviously lead to a reaction," he said.

In a separate nationally televised address, interior ministry spokesman Hany Abdel-Latif promised the protesters "safe passage" if they leave the camps.

But, he also accused Islamist protest organizers of brainwashing the demonstrators and being involved in murders, torture and abductions.

The Egyptian government said Friday it plans to set up barriers around the two sit-ins as part of a strategy to shut them down.

Political violence involving Morsi supporters and opponents has killed almost 300 people since his removal from power, many of them Islamists shot and killed by security forces.

Signs of possible compromises
Morsi allies showed some willingness to compromise on Saturday.

Brotherhood representative Amr Darag told the Associated Press that the group would consider entering talks with the government in return for confidence-building steps. He said they include the release of detained Islamist leaders, the unfreezing of Brotherhood assets, and the lifting of a ban on the group's TV stations.

Another spokesman for the pro-Morsi camp told Reuters that it wants to "respect all political desires" of the Egyptian people, a reference to secular and liberal groups who opposed the Islamist president and backed his overthrow.

But, Tarek el-Malt also demanded the restoration of the Islamist-drafted constitution that was suspended by the military and rejected any political leadership role for Sissi.

Previously, the Muslim Brotherhood movement has focused on its demand for the reinstatement of Morsi as president.

In an interview on VOA's Press Conference USA, William Lawrence, the former head of the International Crisis Group's North Africa Project, said the Muslim Brotherhood has continued to receive broad support because it is viewed as credible.

"The Brothers are seen as less corrupt and less corruptible," he said. "The idea is that you are going to get good governance from the Brothers, because as independent political actors, they were less corrupt and so they had a certain popular legitimacy — moral legitimacy."

Sissi told The Washington Post that he does not aspire to authority, but he also did not explicitly rule out running for president in the future.

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