Panetta urges quick and peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt
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Panetta urges quick and peaceful transition to democracy in Egypt

US Defense Secretary asks head of ruling military council to promptly hold legislative elections

US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, meets with the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo last year. (photo credit: Win McNamee/AP)
US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta, left, meets with the leader of Egypt's ruling military council Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi in Cairo last year. (photo credit: Win McNamee/AP)

On the eve of a runoff presidential election, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi Friday and urged the interim head of government to push forward with a complete transition to democracy in Egypt.

According to a statement released by the US Department of Defense, Panetta spoke with Tantawi, the leader of Egypt’s ruling military council, about several recent developments, including a constitutional court’s dissolution of the nation’s lower house of parliament.

The defense secretary “highlighted the need to move forward expeditiously with Egypt’s political transition, including conducting new legislative elections as soon as possible,” the statement read.

During the conversation, Field Marshal Tantawi promised to transfer power to a democratically elected government by July 1 and reiterated the Egyptian military’s commitment to hold free and fair presidential elections as scheduled on Saturday and Sunday.

Panetta called on Tantawi to “ensure a full and peaceful transition to democracy” in Egypt and said he looked forward to working with the country’s new government on issues of mutual interest.

Polls opened Saturday for 50 million eligible voters in the second round of Egypt’s presidential election. The voting will continue through Sunday and results are expected in a week’s time.

Contending for the presidency are former Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq and Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood.

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