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Sunday, July 15, 2012

Inside Africa: Clinton meets with Egypt's new President

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsy in Cairo on Saturday.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi in Cairo on Saturday.

Cairo (CNN) -- Secretary of State Hillary Clinton on Saturday urged Egypt's first democratically elected leader to "assert the full authority of the presidency."

After her meeting with President Mohamed Mursi -- the first such visit by a U.S. Cabinet official --- Clinton stressed that it was up to Egypt's people to shape the country's political future. But she also noted that the United States would work "to support the military's return to a purely national security role."  "The United States supports the full transition to civilian rule, with all that it entails," she said.

Clinton's visit came as Egypt is in the throes of domestic political chaos, with Mursi in a tug of war with the military leadership in Cairo. The Islamist president doesn't have his own Cabinet in place, and there is no parliament.

"This is a time marked by historic firsts, but also great uncertainty. Egyptians are in the midst of complex negotiations about almost every facet of the transition," Clinton said.

As photographers snapped pictures of their meeting, Mursi told Clinton, "We are very, very keen to meet you and happy that you are here."

The tone of the meeting was cordial and constructive, with much back and forth, according to a senior State Department official who described the talks on condition of anonymity.

Clinton laid out U.S. ideas for supporting Egypt's fragile economy and the two discussed regional security issues, the official said.

Clinton commended Mursi's public commitment to national unity and pluralism. Clinton made it clear the United States will stand up for universal human rights, the official said.

For his part, Morsy underscored the expectations of Egyptians for a complete democratic transition and stressed his commitment to dialogue with all stakeholders, according to the official.

Earlier this week, Clinton sent a message to Egypt's leaders to talk to one another and settle their differences for the good of the people, saying both the president and the military needed to work together to avoid derailing Egypt's democratic transition.

Clinton met Saturday with Egyptian Foreign Minister Kamel Amr and told reporters President Barack Obama wants to relieve up to $1 billion in Egyptian debt and help foster innovation, growth and job creation.

The United States is ready to make available $250 million in loan guarantees to Egyptian businesses, Clinton said.

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