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US defence chief phones Al-Sisi to emphasise partnership with Egypt

US Secretary of Defence Chuck Hagel phoned Egypt's Defence Minister General Abdel Fattah Al-Sisi on Monday to discuss Egypt's political transition and to emphasise the strong relationship between the US and Egypt in light of the "recent terrorist attacks" against Egyptian targets, a Pentagon spokesperson announced. Hagel currently serves as a vital communication channel with the Egyptian military regime, ensuring the close military ties between Cairo and Washington.

Hagel's call came only few hours after the Egyptian Supreme Military Council announced its endorsement of General Al-Sisi running for president of Egypt. The council issued a statement saying: "The supreme council of the armed forces cannot but look respectfully and honourably on the desire of the great Egyptian people in nominating General Al-Sisi for the presidency."

The statement continued: "The council had no choice but to respect the overwhelming desire of the majority of the great Egyptian people for having General Al-Sisi running in the coming presidential elections; a mission considered by the Council as a national duty."

Hours before the military junta's announcement, Egypt's interim President Adly Mansour promoted General Al-Sisi to the symbolic rank of Field Marshal, state television reported.

A security official noted that: "The decision to promote Al-Sisi is expected. It is the first step before the army chief resigns his post to announce his candidacy for president, which should come any time soon."

The military backed government also issued a statement on Sunday announcing its intention to hold presidential elections before parliamentary elections, diverging from the original roadmap proposed in the wake of the coup that ousted Egypt's first democratically elected government last July.

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