Egypt’s President Mohammed Mursi has denied trying to marginalize the Army after he ordered the retirement of his powerful Defense Minister, saying he was acting in the interests of the country.
However, the Egyptian press on Monday described Mursi’s move as “revolutionary”, with some saying it was aimed at ending the power of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF).
“I never intended, through my decisions, to marginalize or be unjust toward anyone, but rather to act so that we advance toward a better future, with a new generation, long-awaited new blood,” Mursi said in a speech at Cairo’s al-Azhar mosque late on Sunday.
“I only wish them the best. I want them to devote themselves to a mission, the protection of the nation,” he said.
“I did not intend to embarrass institutions,” he added, saying he had “the interest of the country in mind.”
In a move that drew thousands of Islamist supporters to Cairo’s Tahrir Square in celebration, Mursi Sunday effectively dismissed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, who ruled Egypt for more than a year after the revolution that toppled former president Hosni Mubarak.
Armed Forces Chief-of-Staff Sami Anan was also retired, state television said, a week after a deadly attack on the Egyptian military in the Sinai prompted an unprecedented military campaign in the lawless peninsula.
The President also scrapped a key constitutional document which gave the military legislative powers and other prerogatives, his spokesman Yasser Ali said.
The surprise announcements marked a new twist in the uneasy relationship between Mursi and the Army, testing the balance of power between the first civilian president in Egypt’s history and a military that had moved to limit his power.
Tantawi -- who had served as Mubarak’s Defense Minister for two decades and headed the country after the strongman’s overthrow, until he handed power to Mursi on June 30 -- was replaced by Abdel Fattah al-Sissi.
Tantawi and Anan, both recipients of the Greatest Nile Collar, Egypt’s most prestigious award, had been retained as Presidential Advisors.
Mursi also amended the interim constitution to deny the military any role in public policy-making, the budget and legislation, and the right to pick a constituent assembly drafting a permanent constitution for post-Mubarak Egypt.
Last Wednesday, Mursi ordered Spy Chief Muraf Muwafi to retire in a reshuffle of military and intelligence ranks after the attack which killed 16 soldiers near Egypt’s borders with Israel and the Gaza Strip.
Source: AFP; Photo: Reuters