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Egypt's president praises army

Egypt's president Mohammed Morsi gave a lengthy speech to the army in praise of its role during the run-up to his election, proclaiming that he, his government and the powerful generals would co-operate for the future.

Speaking with the head of the armed forces Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi by his side and hundreds of troops including generals in the audience, Mr Morsi stressed his legitimacy as Egypt's first popularly-elected president, but also acknowledged that his ascension to the office would have been impossible without the military's support.

The words signalled an understanding between him and the army, after initial tensions during Egypt's transition period since the ousting of Hosni Mubarak, himself a former air force commander who led the country for three decades.

Just days before Mr Morsi was declared president, the military council, headed by Field Marshal Tantawi, stripped him of significant powers and declared themselves as the country's legislative authority after dissolving a parliament dominated by Mr Morsi's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood movement.

The military, which took the reins of power after Mubarak was deposed in a popular uprising in early 2011, also has control over the process of drafting Egypt's new constitution.

But Mr Morsi largely avoided those issues in Saturday's speech, focusing on the military's support for the election of a civilian president. "The will of the people will never be against the armed forces," he said, in a thinly-veiled reference to his own office. It is with the armed forces' help, after God, that we will protect Egypt's interest internally and internationally," he said.

He also said the armed forces remained a "cornerstone" in Egypt's relations with the international community, and a factor for the country's political and economic stability. "This president is the supreme head of the armed forces because of the will of the people. I will not allow anyone to offend the armed forces or this nation, or try to obstruct this democratic path which you protected," he said.

Mr Morsi promised he would respect the democratic process and future elections. Speaking to the generals, he said: "What I ask of you, rather what I order you, is to continue to support the democratic path in Egypt. This is important for you, your children and grandchildren."

Aside from the struggle to assert his powers, Mr Morsi and his new government are now entangled in a web of social and economic problems that have festered over the months of transition.

He has taken his time to choose a prime minister and form a new government, in what appeared to be a process executed in close co-operation with the military. The final line-up was largely made up of technocrats, but also included a number of Islamists and members of the Brotherhood.

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