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February 12, 2011

Egyptian Ambassador Expects Suspension of Emergency Rule

by Michael Bowman

Egypt’s ambassador to the United States says he expects emergency rule to be suspended in his country at some point while a military-led caretaker government prepares for presidential and parliamentary elections later this year. Sameh Shoukry spoke on U.S. television two days after President Hosni Mubarak resigned from office.

Meeting two demands of pro-democracy protesters, Egypt’s military dissolved parliament and suspended the country’s constitution, saying it will govern the country during a six-month transitional period.

Appearing on CBS’ Face The Nation program, Shoukry said he fully believes the military will hand over power to a democratically-elected government. He also predicted an end to emergency rule, but did not say when it might occur.

"We are living under extraordinary times. The Supreme Council has indicated its commitment to lifting the state of emergency, and I believe they will do so."

The ambassador was less optimistic about the likelihood of another demand being met: dissolving the existing military-backed Cabinet.

"The government has been requested to stay in a caretaker capacity. There are enormous challenges facing Egypt currently in terms of the security void that was created with the withdrawal of the police force, in addition to the economic conditions which are very difficult."

Shoukry echoed statements from Cairo stressing Egypt’s intention to honor foreign obligations, including the peace treaty with Israel.

Appearing on ABC’s This Week program, Israeli Defense Minister Ehud Barak expressed concerns about the ambitions of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt, but said the country does not appear to be at risk of falling into the hands of a radical theocracy.

"I think that the direction [of events in Egypt] is something which emerges very genuinely and in a spontaneous manner. It was not something that was organized by extremist groups of radical Muslim origins. I do not think that the relationship between Israel and Egypt is under any risk."

Events in Egypt have been closely watched in Washington, where President Barack Obama has repeatedly hailed popular demands for change in a nation long-allied with the United States.

Appearing on Face The Nation, Republican Senator John McCain of Arizona praised the Obama administration’s handling of rapidly-evolving events in Egypt, and expressed hope for the establishment of true representative democracy there.

"The best way to ensure that no extremist element hijacks this election is to have a free-and-fair election that is truly transparent, that brings in all the democratic forces and factors in Egypt into this process. And voter education has a lot to do with it."

McCain added that free and open societies will be "natural allies" of the United States.

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