Gen Sisi to US: Egypt working on political reconciliation

WASHINGTON (REUTERS) - Egyptian army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi told the United States on Saturday that the new army-installed Egyptian leadership was working towards political reconciliation following the military overthrow of the president on July 3, the Pentagon said on Saturday.

Gen Sisi made the comments during a telephone conversation with US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel, in which the Pentagon chief expressed concern about violence in Egypt after the military toppled Islamist President Mohamed Mursi.

Mr Hagel urged Gen Sisi to support an inclusive political process, Pentagon spokesman George Little said.

"General al-Sisi assured Secretary Hagel that Egyptian authorities were working toward a process of political reconciliation," spokesman Little said.

"General al-Sisi affirmed to Secretary Hagel that Egypt's leadership remains committed to the political roadmap leading to elections and the formation of a constitution in Egypt."

Gen Sisi also said he was looking forward to meeting US Deputy Secretary of State William Burns during his visit to Cairo.

The Pentagon's latest account of the regular conversations between Mr Hagel and Gen Sisi came the same day the Washington Post quoted Gen Sisi as accusing the Obama administration of failing to properly support Egypt, despite the threats of civil war.

"You left the Egyptians. You turned your back on the Egyptians, and they won't forget that," Gen Sisi was quoted as saying. "Now you want to continue turning your backs on Egyptians?"

The United States has walked a delicate line on Egypt, opting against labelling Mr Mursi's removal a "coup" - something that would trigger a cut-off in aid and could alienate Washington from the Egyptian military, which benefits from US$1.3 billion (S$1.6 billion) in annual US military aid.

But US ties with Egypt's armed forces have shown signs of strain, including President Barack Obama's decision last month to halt delivery of four F-16 fighter jets.

Mr Hagel said on Wednesday that the United States still plans to hold a major military exercise called Bright Star in Egypt in mid-September.

The joint drill, dating back to 1981, is seen as a cornerstone of US-Egyptian military relations and began after the Camp David Peace Accords between Egypt and Israel.

The exercise, held every two years, was cancelled in 2011 because of the political turmoil in Egypt following the ouster of longtime autocrat and US ally Hosni Mubarak in a popular revolution.