Egypt's army said Thursday a Kuwaiti newspaper 'misinterpreted' remarks by Field Marshal Abdel Fattah al-Sisi in which he said he would run for president, saying he would announce such a decision only to the Egyptian people.
Sarah Lynch, Special for USA TODAY
CAIRO -- Egypt's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces announced Monday that it supports a presidential run by the nation's army chief in a vote in response to the demands of the people.
In a statement broadcast on Egyptian television, the council of generals said the candidacy of Abdel Fattah al-Sisi for president is "a mandate and an obligation."
The state news agency had reported that the military council unanimously delegated al-Sisi to run in the election, which is likely to be held by the end of April. If he does, he could be the next leader of Egypt.
"He is overwhelmingly supported by the Egyptian population right now," said Tarek Radwan, associate director for research at the Atlantic Council's Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East in Washington.
That may present a problem for President Obama, whose administration has shunned al- Sisi since he ousted the elected president, Mohammed Morsi, in July after protests by millions of Egyptians who accused Morsi of becoming a dictator.
Obama temporarily halted military aid to Egypt last year, which prompted al-Sisi to respond that Egyptians "won't forget that."
The White House did not invite Egypt to an economic summit of 47 African leaders in Washington to be held this year. State Department deputy spokesperson Marie Harf blamed the African Union for the snub.
Harf said Egypt had been suspended from the African Union, so it could not attend, but Egyptian Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelbati said the AU is not connected to the summit and non-union members such as Morocco were not snubbed.
In July, Obama said he was displeased with the ouster of Morsi, who, although he was forcing through edicts that prompted widespread unrest, was the first freely elected president in Egyptian history.
Morsi was elected after the ouster of dictator Hosni Mubarak, who was pushed out by the military in 2011. Obama did not oppose that overthrow, and Morsi appointed al-Sisi to head the army.
Since the overthrow of Morsi, al-Sisi has overseen the drafting of a constitution to replace a Morsi version that opponents alleged was written to curtail the rights of minority religions, political parties and women. The new version passed overwhelmingly in a nationwide vote this month. Al-Sisi has vowed to hold parliamentary and presidential elections this year.
Monday, Egypt's interim president, Adly Mansour, promoted al-Sisi to the military's highest rank – from general to field marshal.
The Atlantic Council's Radwan said a lot of support for al-Sisi sprouts from anger toward the Morsi administration.
"In voting for him, people (would) see that they are in fact denouncing what President Morsi did and the failure of his governance," Radwan said.
Most Egyptian media back al-Sisi, swaying many to support the leader in a nation with a dearth of political alternatives.
Over the weekend, thousands of Egyptians flooded Tahrir Square to celebrate the third anniversary of the uprising against dictator Mubarak and show their support for al-Sisi.
"We're here because we want Sisi," said Sherif Mohammed, waving a large Egyptian flag among crowds that poured into the square. "All these people here want Sisi."
But some activists and liberal groups oppose the repressive policies of the nation's leaders. An alliance led by the Muslim Brotherhood has vowed to continue frequent protests in Egypt's streets.
"Down with the regime: the generals, the corrupt judiciary, the treacherous media," the alliance said in a statement over the weekend.