Egypt’s Morsi orders retirement of defense minister, chief of staff, names VP


By Ernesto Londoño

CAIRO— Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi announced Sunday that he was sacking the country’s two top military chiefs, a provocative move that could provoke a backlash from the military amid a contentious debate over presidential powers.
Morsi, the country’s first Islamist statesman, also announced he was suspending a constitutional decree the country’s generals passed on the eve of his election in June that sharply reduced the powers of the presidency and gave the military vast authority.
Morsi’s spokesman Yasser Ali announced those and other personnel changes Sunday afternoon during an appearance on state television.
The president also ordered the Air Force, Air Defense and Navy commanders to retire. Morsi also announced that he has selected senior judge Mahmoud Mekki as the country’s vice president.
It was not immediately clear whether the country’s Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, whose members have long viewed Morsi suspiciously, agreed to the reshuffle.
Morsi appointed Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sissi as defense minister and commander of the armed forces, replacing Field Marshal Mohammed Hussain Tantawi. Tantawi served as Egypt’s de-facto president after the 2011 wintertime revolt that toppled President Hosni Mubarak. Morsi also forced Gen. Sami Anan, the country’s second most powerful military chief, into retirement.
The move comes a week after militants in northern Sinai attacked a checkpoint near the Israeli border and killed 16 Egyptian security forces. The gunmen later tried to overrun an Israeli border crossing station.

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