An Egyptian presidential aide on Tuesday rejected statements by U.S. Senator John McCain on the military-backed ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Mursi.
McCain had described the popularly-backed military overthrow of Mursi as a coup d’etat.
“John McCain is distorting facts. His clumsy statements are unacceptable in form and substance,” presidential aide Ahmed El-Muslimani told Ahram Arabic website Monday evening.
McCain made the comments at a press conference in Cairo on Monday and became the first U.S. official visiting Egypt to refer to the removal of Mursi as a military coup.
McCain and Senator Lindsey Graham urged Egypt’s military-backed government to release jailed members of the Muslim Brotherhood and called on rival parties in the country to engage in a national dialogue and avoid violence.
McCain and Graham met with top military and civilian leaders in Cairo as part of international efforts to resolve a standoff with supporters of the ousted Mursi.
“Democracy is the only viable path to stability,” said McCain, a former presidential candidate, calling for “an inclusive political process in which all Egyptians are free to participate,” AFP reported.
Graham also referred to the overthrow of Mursi as a “coup,” something the U.S. government has been reluctant to do as it would have legal implications for the $1.3 billion dollars in aid to Egypt.
“The people who are in charge were not elected, and the people who were elected are now in jail,” Graham told reporters.
“We urge the release of political prisoners,” said McCain, referring to Brotherhood members who have been detained since Mursi’s ouster by the military on July 3, the Associated Press reported.
“In a democracy, you have to talk to each other. It is impossible to talk to somebody in jail,” Graham said.
“The judicial system will deal with this in the future. Jailing opposition is not the exercise of a legitimate power,” he said.
Meanwhile, state television cited acting President Adly Mansour as calling McCain’s comments “an unacceptable interference in internal policies.”
Many Egyptian private TV stations’ talk shows also reacted furiously. Lamis al-Hadid of CBC TV called them a “big insult to Egypt and its people,” Reuters news agency reported.
Egypt has been in turmoil since Mursi’s overthrow on July 3, following huge demonstrations against his rule.
The country’s first freely elected president, Mursi is now being detained at an undisclosed location and thousands of his supporters remain camped out at two protest sites in Cairo.