Egypt's Morsi leaves for Saudi on 1st foreign trip

AP News
Posted: Jul 11, 2012 3:19 PM
Egypt's Morsi leaves for Saudi on 1st foreign trip

CAIRO (AP) — Egypt's Islamist president flew to Saudi Arabia on Wednesday at the start of his first foreign trip, underscoring the traditionally close ties between the two regional powerhouses.

Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood has said his administration has no plans to "export" Egypt's revolution, an implicit reassurance to Saudi Arabia and its Gulf allies, who have been nervous over the possibility of Arab Spring revolts reaching their shores.

He has also asserted his country's commitment to the security of Saudi Arabia and its Gulf Arab allies, a thinly veiled reference to the tension between them and Iran.

Morsi was scheduled to meet with Saudi King Abdullah later Wednesday.

Thousands of Brotherhood members sought refuge in Saudi Arabia in the 1950s and 1960s to escape crackdowns by Gamal Abdel-Nasser, Egypt's ruler at the time. But Saudi Arabia's own problems with violent Islamist groups have cooled its ties with groups espousing political Islam, like the Brotherhood.

Some 1.6 million Egyptians live and work in Saudi Arabia, which is also one of the biggest investors in Egypt.

Morsi is Egypt's first democratically elected president. He succeeded Hosni Mubarak, who forged close ties with the Saudis during his 29-year rule. Mubarak was ousted in February 2011 in a popular uprising.

Egyptian media reports have repeatedly claimed that the Saudis were unhappy with the arrest and trial of their ally and friend Mubarak, and that they offered to host him in Saudi Arabia after his ouster. Saudi officials have consistently denied these reports.

Morsi left for Saudi Arabia while in the middle of a showdown with the generals who ruled Egypt for 16 months after Mubarak's ouster and who formally handed power over to him on June 30.

Shortly before his departure, Morsi's office said in a statement that the president was committed to uphold court rulings — an attempt to ease tensions with the military and the judiciary over the fate of the country's dissolved parliament.

The statement came one day after the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled against Morsi's decree to call the house into session despite a June 14 ruling by the same tribunal that the legislature was invalid because a third of its members were elected illegally.

The military dissolved the parliament the next day.

Morsi's decree heightened tensions with the powerful generals, who retained far-reaching powers and stripped Morsi of many of his before they stepped down.

The statement from Morsi's office, carried by Egypt's official news agency, appeared intended to reduce these tensions, but it fell short of saying whether Morsi accepted the latest ruling.

The statement stuck by statements made by Morsi's spokesman, Yasser Ali, saying the president's decree to recall the chamber revoked the military's order to disband the legislature but had nothing to do with the court ruling.

The Islamist-dominated parliament met briefly Tuesday and voted to refer the original ruling to an appeals court. Later on Tuesday, tens of thousands of Brotherhood supporters gathered in Cairo's central Tahrir Square, birthplace of the uprising against Mubarak, to denounce the court ruling. Several hundred returned to the square on Wednesday.