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egypt

Morsi tries to defuse flap over slur

Congress will still push for Cairo aid

  • In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, center left, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, center left, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • Republican Sen. John McCain from Arizona takes a question during a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.  Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

    Republican Sen. John McCain from Arizona takes a question during a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • From left, Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, John McCain, Republican from Arizona and Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat from New York, attend a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.  Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

    From left, Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, John McCain, Republican from Arizona and Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat from New York, attend a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)

  • In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

    In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

  • In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, center, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, center left, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)
  • Republican Sen. John McCain from Arizona takes a question during a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.  Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
  • From left, Senators, Sheldon Whitehouse, Democrat from Rhode Island, Richard Blumenthal, Democrat from Connecticut, John McCain, Republican from Arizona and Kristen Gillibrand, Democrat from New York, attend a press conference for a delegation from the United States Senate, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013.  Egypt’s Islamist president tells visiting U.S. senators that his past remarks calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers” were a denunciation of Israeli policies not an attack on Jews, hoping to defuse Washington’s anger over the comments. (AP Photo/Nasser Nasser)
  • In this image released by the Egyptian Presidency, Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, right, meets with Republican Sen. John McCain, at the Presidential Palace in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013. Morsi met with McCain in Cairo on Wednesday, for a visit expected to last three days. The meeting comes after the Obama administration on Tuesday gave a blistering review of remarks that the Egyptian President made almost three years ago about Jews and called for him to repudiate what it called unacceptable rhetoric. (AP Photo/Egyptian Presidency)

Egypt’s Islamist president sought yesterday to defuse Washington’s anger over his past remarks urging hatred of Jews and calling Zionists “pigs” and “bloodsuckers,” telling visiting U.S. senators that his comments were a denunciation of Israeli policies.

Both sides appear to want to get beyond the flap: Mohammed Morsi needs America’s help in repairing a rapidly sliding economy, and Washington can’t afford to shun a figure who has emerged as a model of an Islamist leader who maintains his country’s ties with Israel.

U.S. Sen. John McCain said a congressional delegation he led that met with Morsi expressed to him their “strong disapproval” about his 2010 comments. The delegation and Morsi had a “constructive discussion” about the remarks, he told reporters.

Still, despite calls by some in Washington to rein in aid to Egypt’s Islamist-led government, he said the delegation will press in Congress for approval of some $480 million in new assistance to Cairo.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, also in the delegation, warned that “the Egyptian economy is going to collapse if something is not done quickly.” He urged Morsi to finalize a repeatedly delayed deal with the International Monetary Fund for a $4.8 billion loan.

The flap was a new twist in Morsi’s attempts to reconcile his background as a veteran of the Muslim Brotherhood – a vehemently anti-Israeli and anti-U.S. group – and the requirements of his role as head of state, which include keeping the strategic rela tionship with Washington.

Morsi’s remarks came from a mix of speeches he made in 2010 when he was a leading Brotherhood figure. The remarks were revived when an Egyptian TV show aired them to highlight and mock Morsi’s policies. On Tuesday, the White House denounced the comments as “deeply offensive.”

In the video, Morsi refers to “Zionists” as “bloodsuckers who attack Palestinians” as well as “the descendants of apes and pigs.” He says Egyptians should nurse their children on “hatred for them: for Zionists, for Jews. They must be breast-fed hatred.” He also calls President Obama a liar.

Morsi, who came to office in June, told the visiting U.S. delegation yesterday that the remarks were taken out of context, aimed at criticizing Israeli policies, and not Jews, according to presidential spokesman Yasser Ali.

Morsi told them distinction must be made between criticism of what he called the “racist” policies of the Israelis against Palestinians and insults against the Jewish faith.

Morsi also told them the remarks were part of a speech against Israeli aggression in Gaza and “assured them of his respect for monotheistic religions, freedom of belief and the practice of religions,” Ali said.

Despite the explanation, Morsi went beyond attacking “Zionists” to directly refer to Jews and used traditional anti-Semitic slurs like “pigs.”

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