CAIRO – Mohammed Morsi promised a new Egypt and support to the powerful military as he took the oath of office Saturday and became the country’s first freely elected president, succeeding Hosni Mubarak.
In an inauguration before the Supreme Constitutional Court, Morsi also became the Arab world’s first freely elected Islamist president.
We aspire to a better tomorrow, a new Egypt and a second republic, Morsi said.
Today, the Egyptian people laid the foundation of a new life – absolute freedom, a genuine democracy and stability, said Morsi, a 60-year-old U.S.-trained engineer from the Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist group that has spent most of the 84 years since its inception as an outlawed organization.
He later delivered his inauguration address at a Cairo University lecture hall packed with several thousand, including many members of the Islamist-dominated parliament dissolved by the military.
Morsi used that address to send implicit reassurance to Israel.
He said his administration would continue to honor its international treaties, an allusion to the 1979 peace treaty between Israel and Egypt.
Relations between them have become particularly tense since last year’s overthrow of Mubarak, who had forged close ties with the Jewish state. The rise to power of Egyptian Islamists has alarmed many Israelis.
Morsi repeated his oath of office and praised the military, which has rushed a series of decrees this month that stripped Morsi of significant powers, gave itself legislative power and took control of drafting a permanent constitution. The armed forces are the shield and sword of the nation, he said. I pledge before God that I will safeguard that institution, soldiers and commanders, raise its prestige and support it with all the powers available to me so it can be stronger.
But Morsi also appeared later in the address to urge the military to hand over all powers to his elected administration.
The (ruling) Supreme Council of the Armed Forces has honored its promise not to be a substitute for the popular will, and the elected institutions will now return to carry out their duties as the glorious Egyptian army returns to being devoted to its mission of defending the nation’s borders and security, he said.
Military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi was in attendance. He and Gen. Sami Anan, the powerful chief of staff, wore a blank face throughout Morsi’s address, occasionally offering support to Morsi with a polite clap of their hands.
Later at a military ceremony held at a base east of Cairo, Tantawi and Anan saluted Morsi as he arrived and awarded him the shield of the Armed Forces, the Egyptian military’s highest honor.