- Associated Press - Monday, August 13, 2012

CAIRO — Egypt’s military signaled its acquiescence Monday to the president’s decision to retire the defense minister and chief of staff and seize back powers that the nation’s top generals grabbed from his office.

President Mohammed Morsi’s shake-up of the military on Sunday took the nation by surprise. It transformed his image overnight from that of a weak leader to one of a savvy politician who carefully timed his move against the military brass who stripped him of significant powers days before he took office on June 30.

A posting on a Facebook page known to be close to the country’s former military rulers said the changes amounted to the “natural” handing over of leadership to a younger generation.

“A greeting from the heart filled with love, appreciation and respect to our leaders who passed on the banner. They will be in our eyes and hearts,” the posting said. “The armed forces is a prestigious institution with a doctrine of full discipline and commitment to legitimacy.”

Egypt’s official news agency quoted an unnamed military official late Sunday as saying there had been no “negative reaction” from within the military. A day after the orders, no unusual military movements were detected anywhere across the nation.

If Mr. Morsi’s decisions go unchallenged, it should end the power struggle that pitted him against the powerful military. That could mean the ushering out of six decades of de facto military rule since army officers seized power in a coup in 1952.

Mr. Morsi has been locked in a power struggle with the military since he took office June 30. But after militants killed 16 Egyptian soldiers a week ago at a border post with Israel in Sinai, he has sought more aggressively to assert his authority over the top generals.

He fired the nation’s intelligence chief a few days after the Sinai attack and made two highly publicized visits to Sinai in the company of top commanders. He also led several meetings with top military officers and made a point of calling himself the supreme commander of the armed forces in televised speeches.

On Sunday, he ordered the retirement of the defense minister, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, and chief of staff, Gen. Sami Annan. He appointed them as presidential advisers and awarded them some of the nation’s highest honors — a move that suggested they had agreed, perhaps grudgingly, in advance.

Mr. Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood, a fundamentalist Islamist group, won both parliamentary and presidential elections in the first free and fair votes in Egypt’s modern history. The group had been repressed under Hosni Mubarak, who had run a secular state.

The Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ruled Egypt for 17 months after Mr. Mubarak was forced out, stripped the presidency of many of its key powers before it handed the office to Mr. Morsi. Field Marshal Tantawi was the head of the military council, and Gen. Annan was No. 2. Field Marshal Tantawi also was Mr. Mubarak’s defense minister for two decades before the regime was ousted.

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