Egyptian President Muhammad Morsi "is his own man" and is committed to implementing democratic reforms in his country, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon E. Panetta said after meeting him in capital Cairo.
Panetta met with Morsi, the first democratically-elected leader of Egypt, at the presidential palace on Tuesday. Panetta's Egyptian counterpart Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi also attended the meeting.
Morsi ran for the Presidency as candidate of the conservative Muslim Brotherhood. Addressing a news conference after their meeting, Panetta said he came away from the meeting "convinced that President Morsi is his own man."
"He is the President of all the Egyptian people and he is truly committed to implementing democratic reforms," the Pentagon chief added.
In his view, Panetta said, Morsi and Tantawi were having a good relationship and were working together toward the same goal. He stressed the United States strongly supports an orderly, peaceful and legitimate transition to a democratic system of government in Egypt.
Panetta also praised Tantawi's leadership in overseeing a peaceful, free and fair presidential election. "I was pleased to hear Field Marshal Tantawi confirm his continuing commitment to transition to full civilian rule," Panetta said.
Tantawi served as Chairman of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, and was Egypt's de facto head of state following the February 2011 ouster of President Hosni Mubarak. He has turned that office over to Morsi.
The United States has an interest in seeing Egypt succeed, Panetta said. The Secretary stressed the importance of the U.S.-Egypt defense relationship and the strong military-to-military ties. "It has been an anchor of regional stability for more than 30 years, and a positive force during this transition," he added.
The United States has a strong military training and education program with Egypt and a robust exercise schedule. Egypt fought alongside American troops in Operation Desert Storm, and continues to provide invaluable counter-terrorism assistance.
The United States and Egypt share a range of security concerns, from violent extremism to securing Egypt's borders. "We agreed that these challenges are best confronted cooperatively," Panetta said.
The leaders agreed that a secure and stable Egypt is good for the region and the world. Security also is key to allowing Egyptians to build the democratic institutions necessary to guarantee the freedoms and rights of the people.
Panetta pledged Washington's continued aid and assistance to the Egyptian military. "Our goal, frankly, is an Egypt that can secure itself in the region," he said.
It was Panetta's second trip to Egypt as Defense Secretary.
by RTT Staff Writer
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