- The Washington Times - Sunday, June 24, 2012

The White House congratulated Islamist candidate Mohammed Morsi on his election as Egypt’s first freely elected president, calling it a milestone in the country’s transition to democracy.

President Obama called Mr. Morsi and defeated candidate Ahmed Shafiq on Sunday and commended both men hours after Egypt’s election commission confirmed that Mr. Morsi, the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood party, defeated Mr. Shafiq, the last prime minister of former President Hosni Mubarak, by 51.7 percent to 48.3 percent in the election held one week ago.

Mr. Obama “underscored that the United States will continue to support Egypt’s transition to democracy and stand by the Egyptian people as they fulfill the promise of their revolution,” the White House said in a readout of the call.

“He emphasized his interest in working together with President-elect Morsi, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” it added.

According to the White House, Mr. Morsi welcomed U.S. support for Egypt’s transition.

“The two leaders affirmed their commitment to advancing the U.S.-Egypt partnership and agreed to stay in close touch in the weeks and months ahead,” the White House said.

In a separate phone call, Mr. Obama commended Mr. Shafiq on a “well-run campaign” and “encouraged [him] to continue to play a role in Egyptian politics by supporting the democratic process and working to unify the Egyptian people,” the White House said.

Mr. Obama “emphasized his interest in working together with the new Egyptian president and all Egyptian political groups to advance the shared interests between the United States and Egypt,” it added.

Also Sunday, Sens. John McCain, Arizona Republican, and Joe Lieberman, Connecticut independent, issued a joint statement saying: “The Egyptian people have spoken, and we respect their choice and look forward to working with President-elect Morsi in a spirit of mutual respect and in pursuit of the many shared interests of the United States and Egypt.”

Mr. McCain and Mr. Lieberman said the U.S. was never interested in the victory or defeat of a particular candidate in Egypt’s presidential election. “That is a matter for the Egyptian people to decide, as they have now done,” they said.

Last week though, the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces passed several laws that strip the presidency of many of its executive powers. The nation’s Supreme Court also has dissolved the country’s parliament as being elected under illegal procedures.

In response, the two senators called for unity among Egypt’s leaders and said it was critical that the country’s democratic transition continue moving forward, including “restoring legislative power to an elected parliament and the drafting of a constitution that guarantees the rights of all and empowers an elected civilian government.”

In a statement, press secretary Jay Carney also addressed another major U.S. fear of an Islamist victory, saying the Obama administration believes Mr. Morsi and his new government “have both the legitimacy and responsibility of representing a diverse and courageous citizenry.”

“We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens - including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians,” Mr. Carney said.