US not interfering in Egypt transition, ambassador says
Conflicting reports exist on Egypt's next prime minister
The Obama administration has not voiced support for any particular person to head Egypt's next government, the country's top envoy to the United States said Sunday, amid conflicting reports that an opposition leader would be installed as prime minister this weekend.
Mohamed Tawfik, the Egyptian ambassador to the U.S., told CNN that the Obama administration had "absolutely not" indicated it would back any candidate, including Mohamed ElBaradei.
"Right now there are discussions in Egypt about choosing a prime minister. This is something for the Egyptians themselves to decide," Tawfik said, when asked if U.S. officials had indicated their support for ElBaradei. "The important thing is for this process to be inclusive and for there to be a general agreement on whoever will be named as prime minister."
The White House said Saturday that the Obama administration "is not aligned with, and does not support, any particular Egyptian political party or group."
"In line with that position, 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 said in a statement after President Barack Obama met with his national security team.
ElBaradei is well known to U.S. and international officials. Before returning to his country and running for the presidency against Mohamed Morsy -- who was ousted by military leaders Wednesday after a year in office -- ElBaradei led the United Nations' atomic energy watchdog. Upon his return to Egypt in 2011, he was held under house arrest by the government of Hosni Mubarak and later quit the presidential race, saying it was not democratic enough.
His political party announced Saturday that he was named to the post of prime minister, but later a government spokesman said the negotiations were "ongoing" and a government would be named Sunday.
The more secular ElBaradei emerged as a leader of the opposition to Morsy's government but is not supported by every opposition faction, including the more conservative sects.
Tawfik has maintained that Morsy's removal was not a coup, but a reflection of popular will, and has urged a "national reconciliation" process.
The Obama administration has also avoided describing it as a coup and called for an end to violence and a "transition to sustainable democracy."
Tawfik said he was in "ongoing conversations both with the administration and Congress, and it's important to keep these lines of communications open. "It's important to explain what's happening. People can easily get confused, but again, the most important thing is to look to the future."
One issue he can be expected to discuss is the billions in military aid the U.S. has given Egypt in recent years.
Some elected officials have said the U.S. should suspend that aid, citing a federal law disallowing aid in most cases following a coup.
Sen. John McCain, R-Arizona, said Friday the U.S. should do so because the "Egyptian military has overturned the vote of the people of Egypt."
But Rep. Mike Rogers, R-Michigan and chairman of the House Intelligence Committee, said on CNN's "State of the Union" that the U.S. should continue to provide financial support to the Egyptian military, which he called the "one stabilizing force in Egypt that I think can temper down the political feuding that you're seeing going on now."
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