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Egypt: Chief justice Adly Mansour sworn in as interim president

4:19 PM, Jul 4, 2013   |    comments
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An Egyptian family celebrates in Cairo on July 3, 2013 after a broadcast confirming that the army will temporarily be taking over from the country's first democratically elected president Mohammed Morsi. In their tens of thousands, they cheered, ignited firecrackers and honked horns as soon as the army announced President Mohamed Morsi's rule was over, ending Egypt's worst crisis since its 2011 revolt. AFP PHOTO / KHALED DESOUKI

CAIRO - Egypt's chief justice Adly Mansour was sworn in as the nation's interim president Thursday as the country grapples with uncertainty over its future, and as deposed leader Mohammed Morsi is under house arrest at an undisclosed location.

Adly Mansour will be Egypt's interim president until a new election is held in the months ahead. A date for the vote has not been set.

After days of widespread unrest that brought unprecedented numbers to Egypt's streets, the army suspended the nation's constitution and called for new elections. The momentous upheaval effectively ousted the nation's first democratically elected leader, and set the nation on a precarious path of transition.

Mansour, 67, is head of the High Constitutional Court, holding the position that was designated in the transitional plan as responsible for filling the role of presidency while the country wades in political limbo.

On Wednesday, the capital exploded in celebration, fireworks erupting across the sky, thousands crowding into Tahrir Square, and flags waving from countless windows. A mood of recklessness also churned as cars whipped unpatrolled through Cairo's streets. Others projected a sense of unease as reality set in that the nation's first freely elected leader was pushed from power.

"It is going the wrong way. It's a shame," said one Muslim Brotherhood support, Ahmed Hassan, concerned that the military does not respect human rights and fears sweeping arrests, which have already started.

The Brotherhood's political party and the Brotherhood's deputy chief were arrested early Thursday, the Associated Press reported. The movement's television station and other Islamist channels have also been cut and some Brotherhood figures are barred from leaving the country.

Morsi rose to presidency through the Muslim Brotherhood, an 85-year-old movement whose members long suffered from repression and arrest under presidents including dictator Hosni Mubarak until he was ousted in 2011.

Morsi's backers now are crying military coup and Brotherhood spokesman Gehad El-Haddad said the events signify old regime retaliation.

"It is difficult to see something healthy coming out of this in the short term," the International Crisis Group said in a statement Wednesday.

"If as now appears certain, Morsi is forced out of office, it would constitute a blow to Egypt's fragile democracy, regardless of what one thinks of his presidency, entrenching the view, for some, that mass protests backed by the army can trump the ballot box, and, in other quarters, that investing in a peaceful democratic process is simply not worthwhile," the statement said.

A priority now should be trying to avoid bloodshed, the group said.

At least 10 people died overnight and over 400 were injured, according to reports, in clashes that erupted in pockets across the country between opponents and supporters of Morsi.

Almost 50 people in total have been killed in clashes since Sunday.

"I think the next thing is how to prepare," said opposition figure Mohamed Abou El Ghar, who is part of the coalition that developed the transition plan.

"We will have first a presidential election, or we will have the constitution first - changing items in the constitution," he said.

The leader seeks a presidential election as soon as possible, preferably within the next three months, but did not disclose who the opposition will put forward as a candidate. Many of Morsi's opponents in Tahrir Square Wednesday did not seem concerned about who specifically will rule in the long-term.

The new phase of disorder in what has proved to be a turbulent two and a half years since Mubarak was ousted from power escalated earlier this week when protesters, who had mobilized for months, took to squares and streets nationwide calling for Morsi to step down and demanding an early presidential election.

Egypt's army gave politicians a 48-hour ultimatum to resolve the crisis on Monday. But Morsi held firm to his post, repeating in a speech that he would protect his "constitutional legitimacy."

As the deadline Wednesday crept closer, Mohamed ElBaradei, head of the National Salvation Front, which is the main coalition of opposition groups, met with army chief Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi in a meeting that the Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar and the head of the Coptic church also attended.

Hours later, the army announced its plan, leaving the nation - and the world - divided over whether or not the military's move was a coup, or should be hailed as a democratic success resulting from the will of the people.

President Obama on Wednesday ordered that U.S. assistance to Egypt - which totals $1.6 billion annually - be reviewed.

"We are deeply concerned by the decision of the Egyptian Armed Forces to remove President Morsy and suspend the Egyptian constitution," Obama said in a statement.

He called on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly in returning full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government through an inclusive and transparent process. He also urged that arbitrary arrests of Morsi supporters be avoided.

"The United States is monitoring the very fluid situation in Egypt, and we believe that ultimately the future of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people," Obama said.

Sarah Lynch, Special for USA TODAY

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