Egypt chief of staff says army to stay away from politics

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The Egyptian army will stay away from politics but it is carefully watching the developments on the country’s political scene, the chief of staff told Al Arabiya on Monday.

Major General Sedki Sobhi said Egypt today is going through a political struggle as a result of the revolution, of democracy and freedom, adding that this new situation needs to be regulated for the country to stay on the right path.
The chief of staff stressed that a president’s initiative for talks with the opposition would soon bring positive results toward stability.

In an earlier interview with Reuters, Maj. Gen. Sobhi said he expects rival political groups to solve disputes by dialogue.

The military ran Egypt for six decades from the end of the colonial era and through an interim period after the overthrow of former air force chief and president Hosni Mubarak two years ago.
About 60 people have been killed since late January in protests that erupted after the second anniversary of the uprising.

Diplomats and analysts suggest the army, fearful of further damaging a reputation that took a beating during a messy transition period when it was in charge, would only act if Egypt faced unrest on the scale of the revolt that toppled Mubarak.

Protests and violence now are nowhere near that stage.

Sobhi’s remarks were less categorical than those of General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the army chief, who said on January 29 that unrest was pushing the state to the brink of collapse and the army would remain the “solid and cohesive block” on which the state rests.

In recent months, opposition groups have criticized Islamist President Mohammed Mursi’s perceived drift towards authoritarianism, which they say fuelled this year’s unrest.

The instability has provoked unease in Western capitals, where officials worry about the direction of a powerful regional player that has a peace deal with Israel.

Asked about security in Egypt, Sobhi downplayed violence during protests earlier this month.
“We cannot say it is a very serious or very dangerous,” he said.

Liberal and Islamist political leaders met privately on Saturday to try to ease the latest tensions.
Politicians said Mohamed ElBaradei, a prominent liberal activist and leader of the National Salvation Front (NSF), met Saad el-Katatni, head of the Muslim Brotherhood’s ruling Freedom and Justice Party (FJP). Another leader of the NSF, Sayed el-Badawi, also took part in the talks.

Previously the NSF had boycotted the idea of talks with President Mursi of the Brotherhood, who has been the target of protester rage in weeks of violent demonstrations.

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