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Kerry praises Egyptians for presidential election

Senator John Kerry praised Egyptians for following through with their first free presidential election since the ouster of longtime dictator Hosni Mubarak.

“This is an historic moment for them in their post-revolutionary period, and it’s an Egyptian moment just as it’s been an Egyptian revolution,’’ the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement Sunday after Egypt’s election commission declared Mohammed Morsi of the Muslim Brotherhood the winner in the presidential balloting a week ago.

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Kerry, the chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, has played public and behind-the-scenes roles in helping the Obama administration work with leaders in trouble spots across the Middle East and in Pakistan and Afghanistan. He was among the first in Washington to call for Mubarak to step down during massive street protests last spring.

The declaration of Morsi as the new president deepens the political tussle between the Muslim Brotherhood and the powerful Egyptian military, which has been ruling the country since Mubarak’s departure. In the past ten days, the nation’s judiciary has dissolved the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated Parliament and the military has declared sweeping new powers, substantially reducing the stature of the office of the presidency.

Kerry said he recently met twice with Morsi in Cairo and they discussed Egypt’s economic woes. According to Kerry, the new president also had vowed to protect the rights of minorities and women and pledged to maintain his country’s special relationship with the United States.

Egypt has received about $70 billion in US aid since it became the first Arab nation to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1978.

Yet, Kerry also acknowledged the frosty relations the Muslim Brotherhood has had with the United States and Israel and said much work needs to be done.

“Ultimately, just as it is anywhere in the world, actions will matter more than words,’’ he said, before reiterating Egypt’s primacy in the Middle East. “Egypt remains a key partner for the United States, a leader in the region, and a bellwether for the long term meaning of the Arab Spring.’’

Michael Bailey can be reached at m_bailey@globe.com
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