POWER STRUGGLE

Appointee to key post in Egypt withdrawn

ElBaradei scuttled; street clashes abate

7/7/2013
BLADE NEWS SERVICES
Mohamed ElBaradei
Mohamed ElBaradei

CAIRO — Egypt’s new president moved to assert his authority Saturday even as his Islamist opponents declared his powers illegitimate and issued blood oaths to restore Mohammed Morsi, whose ouster by the military has led to street battles between rival sides.

Egyptian state media reported — and later rolled back the announcement — that Mohamed ElBaradei, a former chief of the U.N. nuclear agency, had been appointed Egypt’s interim prime minister.

The reversal occurred after Islamists who joined the coalition against Mr. Morsi threatened to withdraw their support if Mr. ElBaradei were installed.

“Indications are directed at a certain name, but talks are still ongoing,” said Ahmed el-Moslemany, a spokesman for interim President Adly Mansour, speaking late Saturday at a news conference that had been billed as an announcement of a new prime minister.

The unusual back-and-forth suggested that Mr. ElBaradei — a divisive figure in Egypt who is seen as a secularist by groups that want a greater role for religion in politics — may have proved too controversial a choice as prime minister.

A top aide to Mr. ElBaradei had portrayed the appointment as a done deal on Saturday.

But as reports of Mr. ElBaradei’s selection filtered out, leaders of the ultraconservative Salafi el-Nour party threatened to withdraw from the coalition of groups backing a path toward elections.

“The nomination of ElBaradei violates the road map that the political and national powers had agreed on with Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi,” Ahmed Khalil, the el-Nour party’s deputy leader, told the state-run al-Ahram newspaper.

Many Islamists view Mr. ElBaradei as a leader who is uninterested in giving them a say in Egypt’s affairs.

Tensions remained high as tens of thousands of Morsi supporters rallied for a third day near a mosque in a Cairo neighborhood that has traditionally been a stronghold of Islamists.

General el-Sissi has denied the military staged a coup, saying he was acting on the wishes of millions of Egyptians protesting the ex-Islamist leader.

But no major violence was reported Saturday as all sides regrouped after a night of fierce clashes between Morsi supporters and opponents that turned Cairo into a battlefield.

Setting up another showdown, the youth opposition group behind the series of mass protests that led to Mr. Morsi’s ouster called on Egyptians to take to the streets today to show support for the new order.

Mr. Mansour, 67, the former chief justice of the country’s constitutional court who was installed by the military as an interim leader, met earlier Saturday with General el-Sissi and Interior Minister Mohammed Ibrahim, who is in charge of the police.

He also met separately with the three young leaders of Tamarod, or Rebel, which organized the massive opposition protests that began June 30, the anniversary of Mr. Morsi’s inauguration.

Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, meanwhile, has promised to boycott the political process, saying the military maneuver was a coup that overturned a democratically elected government.

President Obama, during a phone conference from Camp David with the National Security Council on Saturday, reiterated that the United States is not aligned with and is not supporting any particular Egyptian political party or group and again condemned the ongoing violence across Egypt.