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Egypt’s interim chief defends military


– Egypt’s interim president Tuesday defended the military’s ouster of his predecessor said his government’s top priority was restoring security in the face of terrorism.

Adly Mansour’s interview with Egyptian state television, the first since his appointment, aired the same day that a military tribunal issued verdicts against supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi and a court ordered channels sympathetic to the former regime off the air.

The wide-ranging interview appeared aimed at putting a civilian face on the military ouster of Morsi amid concerns that the country’s powerful army is pulling the strings from behind the scenes.

Mansour said Egypt was moving from “authoritarian rule to democratic rule” and said the country’s top priorities are sticking to a military-backed road map for transition, restoring security and improving the economy.

The interim government is charging ahead with a transition plan, appointing a committee to review the constitution passed under Morsi. A new version is to be put to a popular referendum within two months, and if passed, it would open the way for presidential and parliamentary elections.

Mansour defended reinstating emergency laws in the meantime. The state of emergency grants authorities sweeping powers to make arrests.

“Acts of terrorism and an aggressive war by extremists led us to this decision,” he said. Without elaborating, he said there was a plan aimed at “burning Egypt.”

State news media have frequently accused Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood group and their supporters of carrying out acts of terrorism and attacking police stations, churches and government buildings.

Morsi’s backers say the new leaders are relying on security forces and a corrupt system to go after the group to avoid finding a political solution or compromises to the crisis.

Mansour said his government would not hold reconciliation talks with anyone who has incited or taken part in acts of violence.

He said the fate of the Brotherhood is now in the hands of the judiciary, which is reviewing a case calling for the group’s dissolution on the grounds it allegedly operated outside the boundaries of the law.

The country’s interim prime minister recently said the Brotherhood should be allowed to have a political party and be monitored rather than be forced underground as it had been for more than 80 years.

In the past several weeks, many leaders and members of the Brotherhood have been detained and face prosecution on charges including inciting violence, possession of weapons and murder.

Morsi himself has been held in an undisclosed location since his July 3 ouster. He has been referred to trial for inciting the murder of his opponents last year, though no date has been set.

Despite the fierce crackdown against Morsi’s backers and those critical of his ouster, thousands protested across the country Tuesday in scattered marches and raised the ex-president’s picture.

Meanwhile, a court Tuesday ordered Al-Jazeera’s local affiliate and three other stations to stop broadcasting, saying the stations “hurt national security.”