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August 19, 2017

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Egyptian president-elect begins negotiations to form gov't

CAIRO -- Egypt's new president-elect, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, moved into the office once occupied by ousted leader Hosni Mubarak and started consultations Monday on forming his team and a new government, an aide said.

Morsi was declared on Sunday the winner of Egypt's first free presidential election in its modern history, following a tight race with Mubarak's last Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq.

The campaign had deeply polarized the country, pitting a former regime official and former military man— feared to be a continuation of Mubarak's autocratic rule but viewed by some as an agent of stability— against an Islamist.

Many supported Morsi as a representative of the uprising that toppled the old regime and a chance to challenge the military. But Morsi was equally feared among youth groups behind the uprising, which campaigned for a secular democratic state, and among many of the country's Christian minority. Almost half of the voters boycotted the runoff vote last weekend.

The victory of Morsi, the first civilian president to take over the country's top job, is a stunning achievement for the Islamist group that remained for most of its eight decades a shadowy organization targeted by successive regimes. He pledged he will be a "president for all Egyptians."

"I will be a president for all Egyptians," Morsi said just hours after he was declared the winner.

"I call on you, great people of Egypt ... to strengthen our national unity," he added. National unity "is the only way out of these difficult times."

Morsi, who resigned from the Muslim Brotherhood to take the top job, also thanked the "martyrs" of the uprising for the victory. "The revolution continues," he added.

The 60-year-old engineer also vowed to honor international treaties, adding: "We come in peace." Egypt was the first Arab country to sign a peace treaty with Israel, in 1979.

Now, Morsi faces a daunting struggle for power with the country's still-dominant military rulers who took over after Mubarak's ouster in the uprising.

Just days before a winner was announced, the ruling generals made a series of decisions that gave them sweeping powers, undercutting the authorities of the president, including passing the state budget — and granted military police broad powers to detain civilians.

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