Obama administration cautions Egypt's Morsi against seizing powers

The Obama administration expressed concern Friday over Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi’s decision to grant himself sweeping new authority, warning that power in the nation should “not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution.”

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In a statement, State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said Morsi's actions go against the “the aspirations of the revolution” in 2011 that led to the ouster of longtime President Hosni Mubarak. 

“One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution,” Nuland said. 

“The current constitutional vacuum in Egypt can only be resolved by the adoption of a constitution that includes checks and balances, and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt's international commitments.”

The administration’s comments came after thousands of people took to the streets in cities across Egypt to protest Morsi’s decision. 

"We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue," Nuland said.


Morsi, who had won praise earlier this week for his role in brokering a cease-fire between Israel and Hamas, on Thursday issued an order making him immune from decisions made by the nation’s courts. 

He also ordered retrials of former regime officials related to violence during the 2011 revolution, a move that could see Mubarak come before the courts again. Mubarak, who ruled Egypt for three decades, was convicted in June on charges of being an accessory to murder in the deaths of protesters. He was sentenced to life in prison. 

Morsi's decrees effectively place him above the law as Egypt drafts its new constitution. 

According to Reuters, Egyptian police fired tear gas to disperse protesters gathered in Tahrir Square, the focal point in Cairo for the demonstrations that ultimately brought down Mubarak’s regime. 


Violence also broke out in the cities of Suez, Port Said and Alexandria. 

Morsi, who was backed during this year’s election by the Muslim Brotherhood, said the moves were taken to protect Egypt against “threats to the revolution,” the Associated Press reported

Speaking Friday to supporters in front of the presidential palace, Morsi said his move was aimed at stopping minority factions trying to upend the country’s transition. 

“There are weevils eating away at the nation of Egypt,” he said, according to AP. 


The full statement from the State Department's Victoria Nuland is below: 

The decisions and declarations announced on November 22 raise concerns for many Egyptians and for the international community. One of the aspirations of the revolution was to ensure that power would not be overly concentrated in the hands of any one person or institution. The current constitutional vacuum in Egypt can only be resolved by the adoption of a constitution that includes checks and balances, and respects fundamental freedoms, individual rights, and the rule of law consistent with Egypt's international commitments. We call for calm and encourage all parties to work together and call for all Egyptians to resolve their differences over these important issues peacefully and through democratic dialogue.