U.S. President Barack Obama is urging his Islamist-backed Egyptian counterpart Mohamed Morsi to protect democratic principles for all Egyptians in upcoming elections.
A White House statement said Obama's encouragement was conveyed Tuesday in a telephone call. It said the U.S. president stressed the Egyptian leader's responsibility to "protect the democratic principles that the Egyptian people fought so hard to secure," including "the rights of women and people of all faiths."
Earlier Tuesday, a leading Egyptian opposition group, the secularist National Salvation Front, officially announced it will boycott the country's parliamentary elections, set to begin in April. Party leader Mohamed ElBaradei hinted last week at the boycott, saying he was not willing to be a part of what he called a "sham democracy."
Another opposition leader, Sameh Ashour, said Tuesday there is no guarantee of free and fair elections without a national unity government. He said President Morsi continues to reject those opposition demands.
Ashour also said the opposition grouping would not attend a national dialogue meeting called by President Morsi for late Tuesday. The National Salvation Front includes 11 secular, liberal and leftist parties.
Morsi's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood and the ultra-conservative Salafi Nour Party have indicated they will participate in the upcoming polls.