Egypt’s interim presidency pulled back from reports that it would name former U.N. nuclear agency chief Mohamed ElBaradei as the nation’s interim prime minister Saturday, news agencies reported.
In a televised news conference, a spokesman for the presidency acknowledged opposition to ElBaradei and said an appointment date was not certain.
Earlier in the day Egypt’s National Salvation front announced that ElBaradei, a Nobel Peace Prize-winning diplomat who played a leading role in the opposition to deposed Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, was being tapped to help restore law and order in Egypt after the army this week overthrew Morsi and suspended the constitution.
A senior official of the Freedom and Justice Party, the Morsi-backed Muslim Brotherhood’s political wing, told Reuters that he rejected ElBaradei’s appointment. “We reject this coup and all that results from it, including ElBaradei,” he said.
Egypt’s Muslim Brotherhood continued to oppose the military’s forceful removal of their leader by gathering in large numbers Saturday in what has spiraled into violent clashes with Egyptian security forces and protesters celebrating Morsi’s ouster.
The surge in violence has left at least 36 people dead and more than 1,400 injured across the country, Egypt’s health ministry said. The deadly clashes reverberated throughout Egypt as uprisings extended beyond the capital city of Cairo where the initial demonstrations started.
Thousands of pro-Morsi supporters ascended on the Republican Guard headquarters Friday where the deposed president is believed to be detained. In a statement through the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement’s leader Mohamed Badie appealed to supporters to demand Morsi’s reinstatement and “remain in the public squares of every governorate and every city until power is restored to him as the rightful ruler of Egypt.” An Islamist coalition led by the Muslim Brotherhood plans to pick up more demonstrations across Egypt for Sunday.
While condemning the violence, the Obama administration on Saturday reiterated that the United States would not be backing any particular side or political party jockeying for power in Egypt.
“The United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed,” the White House released in a statement. President Obama, who was on a weekend retreat at Camp David, led a conference call with the National Security Council reaffirming the U.S.’s interest in seeing a transition to sustainable democracy, the statement read.
ElBaradei is to join an interim administration led by Adly Mansour, the chief justice of Egypt’s high court who was sworn in as interim president just hours after Egypt’s military seized power and removed the country’s first democratically elected president. The two leaders met with Egypt’s army chief on Saturday to outline a pathway out of the violence, Reuters reports.
Known to Obama and many world leaders personally from his work at the U.N., ElBaradei returned to his country last year seed democratic change in Egypt by working to topple autocrat Hosni Mubarak and his decades of dictatorship.
“He’s a very well-respected man both on the international stage and here domestically in Egypt,” NBC Ayman Mohedin reported from Cairo. “He’s a man who a lot of the secular youth opposition movements in Egypt rally behind.”
Egypt has long been a key U.S. ally in the Middle East as the largest Arab country with some 83 million people. Earlier this week, President Obama ordered an assessment of Egypt’s military takeover and its implications on U.S. foreign aid to the country. U.S. law says the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d’etat, leaving the $1.5 billion the U.S. provides Egypt in military and economic assistance annually in flux.
Arizona Sen. John McCain has already called on the U.S. to suspend aid to the Egyptian military. During a press conference in Prescott, Ariz., on Friday, McCain said he reluctantly felt that the U.S. could not stand by without acting after the military overturned the freely elected government in Egypt.
“I am aware that by suspending aid to the Egyptian military, which is the only stable institution in Egypt, we are risking further problems in the Sinai, and in other areas of cooperation with the Egyptian military,” he said.
ElBaradei canceled a scheduled appearance on Meet the Press hours after the presidency’s announcement. David Gregory said on the program that ElBaradei told him he had laryngitis and was under medical orders to avoid television interviews.