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This week’s meeting between Defense Minister Abdel Fattah al-Sisi and political forces was cancelled due to pressure from President Mohamed Morsy’s administration, informed sources told Al-Masry Al-Youm on Friday. The Morsy administration denies the claims.
"The administration and President Mohamed Morsy pressed the Armed Forces to cancel the dialogue which was planned for last Wednesday because the Muslim Brotherhood and its [Freedom and Justice] Party refused to attend the meeting, considering it an intervention on part of the Armed Forces in political life," the sources said.
The call for the meeting came amidst rising polarization between Morsy and his opponents over the draft constitution. Opposition forces say the Constituent Assembly that wrote the draft was hijacked by Islamists.
The military institution has sent mixed signals about its position in the current crisis. The Armed Forces have issued intermittent statements saying they are with the Egyptian people, which some have read as a sign of solidarity with the opposition. Since the transitional period when the country was ruled by the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, there has been an increasing rift between Islamist parties and the military.
Other analysts say that the draft constitution preserves the privileged position of the military, thus neutralizing its position in the current crisis.
"The dialogue was not postponed, but was cancelled. This is a great insult to Egyptians who appreciate the role of the Armed Forces, their patriotism and their sincere hope to maintain the unity of the community by reuniting the political forces without bias," the London-based Asharq al-Awsat newspaper quoted sources as saying.
"The FJP was the first party to respond to the call of the defense minister for a 'humanitarian meeting' which links the people of the same family, and we did not mind attending. The defense minister should be asked for the reason behind postponement," said FJP leader Gamal Heshmat.
Heshmat claimed that the Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with the meeting’s cancellation.
"A number of political forces said that the Brotherhood postponed the dialogue, in an attempt to persuade the people that the Brothers are running the country and that the supreme guide interferes in the affairs of presidency, which is totally untrue. Those who claim something have to prove it," Heshmat added.
"Some parties want to insult and embarrass the administration through fabricated lies and rumors," he said.
Presidential spokesperson Yasser Ali denied that the administration exerted pressure to cancel the meeting.
Edited translation from Al-Masry Al-Youm