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Hagel urges Egypt army to back 'inclusive' process

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate on June 12, 2013 on Capitol Hill In Washington, DC
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel testifies before the Senate on June 12, 2013 on Capitol Hill In Washington, DC. Hagel on Saturday urged his Egyptian counterpart to support an "inclusive" political process in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president M

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel on Saturday urged his Egyptian counterpart to support an "inclusive" political process in the wake of the ouster of Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Hagel spoke early Saturday with General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, the head of Egypt's armed forces, which drove Morsi from power on June 3 amid massive protests against his year-long rule.

"Secretary Hagel expressed concern about the recent violence in Egypt and urged General al-Sisi to support an inclusive political process," the Pentagon said in a statement.

"General al-Sisi assured Secretary Hagel that Egyptian authorities were working toward a process of political reconciliation and that he looked forward to meeting with Deputy Secretary of State William Burns while he is in Cairo."

The US statement said Sisi and the interim government remain committed to a "political roadmap leading to elections and the formation of a constitution in Egypt."

The United States has been trying to head off a deepening crisis in a key Middle East ally as Morsi's supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood hold mass rallies despite government warnings to disperse.

Washington provides some $1.5 billion a year in mostly military aid to Egypt and has long maintained close ties to the country's armed forces.

More than 250 people have been killed since Morsi's ouster as clashes have erupted around two large protest camps set up by the deposed president's supporters in different parts of Cairo.

The Muslim Brotherhood, which has seen several of its top leaders jailed since Morsi's ouster, has refused talks with the military-backed interim government, accusing it of having carried out an illegal coup against the country's first democratically elected president.

On Saturday, Burns met with Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy hours after meeting with representatives of the Muslim Brotherhood and its Freedom and Justice Party.

After meeting with Burns, Fahmy told reporters "there is no desire to use force if there is any other avenue that has not been exhausted."

"The door is open for everybody including the Brotherhood to participate in the process," he said.

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