The New York Times reports: President Mohamed Morsi of Egypt, meeting with Chancellor Angela Merkel on Wednesday, rejected calls for a new unity government in response to the violent demonstrations rocking his country and defended his decision to impose a state of emergency and curfew in three cities.
“In Egypt there is a stable government working day and night in the interest of all Egyptians,” Mr. Morsi said. A new government will not be formed before the upcoming parliamentary election, Mr. Morsi said.
At a moment of acute political crisis at home in Egypt, Mr. Morsi found himself on a previously scheduled visit to Berlin, where he also met with the economy minister, Philipp Rösler, and leading representatives of German businesses. Germany is Egypt’s third most important trading partner, and investment and development aid from Germany will be necessary if Egypt hopes to get back on its feet, analysts say.
His visit to Germany was controversial, with newspapers and television commentators questioning whether Egypt was on the path to democracy. In a country conscious of its responsibility for the Holocaust, Mr. Morsi’s past comments about Jews and Zionists have also raised concerns.
After the two leaders met, Mr. Morsi and Ms. Merkel held a joint news conference at the chancellery building on Wednesday afternoon. A German reporter asked Mr. Morsi about comments in which he described Zionists as “bloodsuckers” and “the descendants of apes and pigs.”
Mr. Morsi said his statements had been taken out of context. “I am not against Judaism as a religion,” he said. “I am not against Jews practicing their religion. I was talking about anybody practicing any religion who spills blood or attacks innocent people — civilians. I criticize such behavior.
“My religion instructs me to believe in all the prophets and to respect all religions as well as every person’s freedom of religion,” Mr. Morsi continued. “Everyone believes in and practices his religion the way he sees fit as long as it remains lawful in the country he lives in.”
Ms. Merkel made it clear that Germany would continue its support of Egypt’s transition to democracy only if Mr. Morsi’s government upheld certain democratic ideals.
“One thing that is important for us is that the channels of dialogue are always open with all political forces in Egypt, so that the different political forces can play their role,” Ms. Merkel said. [Continue reading…]