TODAY

TODAY   |  July 04, 2013

Egypt swears in judge as interim president

A constitutional court judge was sworn in Thursday as temporary president of Egypt, a day after the military ousted president Mohammed Morsi, the country’s first democratically elected head of state. Adly Mansour will serve until a new election is held. NBC’s Richard Engel reports and Hisham Melhem of Al Arabiya comments on the dramatic turn of events.

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>> breaking news overseas.

>>> egypt 's interim leader using the swearing in ceremony to praise demonstrators and the days of protests that led to the removal of mohamed morsi.

>> president obama keeping a close eye on what's happening in egypt . the president holding a meeting with his security team, and the president ordering all nonessential embassy staff and their families to leave europe. let's get right to nbc's chief foreign correspondent richard engel . he is in cairo for us. richard, good morning.

>> reporter: good morning, willie. here in tahrir square, the protest tents are starting to come down, a sign that at least this phase of egypt 's political transition could be ending. the new transitional president has just given his first speech, calling on all sectors of egyptian society, including the muslim brotherhood , to participate in future politics. as for the ousted president, president morsi, when we asked the army today about his whereabouts, an army spokesperson would only say, quote, he's in a safe place. wasting no time, egypt swore in a new president this morning. adly mansour, head of the constitutional court . he's just a caretaker until a new election and seemed as surprised as anyone at the rapid turn of events. the ceremony came just hours after an all night party in cairo. wild celebrations for the army's ousting of president mohamed morsi. the reaction in tahrir square to what some are calling a coup is a sign of just how unpopular morsi had become. an implement from the muslim brotherhood . many egyptians said morsi's year in office was an experiment in political islam gone wrong. critics say he ignored the economy while empowering islamic fundamentalists . the military chief said the military intervened at the people's request, insisting it has no interest in running egypt . president obama said wednesday he is deeply concerned about the egyptian military 's decision. in a statement released by the white house , the president called for "the egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process." morsi is being held in c communicado by the military. some of his supporters are held in the same prison as mubarak. morsi's supporters are furious. some are armed. there are fears they could go underground and become an insurgency. the u.s. embassy is worried there could be violence here, and it's advising not just nonessential staff to leave the country, but american citizens in egypt as well. on a separate note, the u.s. embassy has cancelled its traditional 4th of july reception.

>> richard engel in a significantly quieter tahrir square this morning. richard, thanks so much. the washington bureau chief for al arabiya joins us this morning. good morning.

>> good morning.

>> this is an incredible day. 30 years with one leader in egypt . now just in the last year alone, two leaders. fundamentally, why did the egyptian people turn on their democratically elected president morsi?

>> because the president led the country to the abyss literally. he was engaged in a power grab. he appointed his own people to government instead of addressing the crushing economic crisis in the country. he wanted to tell the people of egypt how to be a good muslim. he deepened the rift within the egyptian society. while institutions are unraveling, he created tension with the christian community and the shiite community. he led egypt astray. although he was elected democratically, he did not rule as a democrat, he ruled as an autocrat, leading the country away from a more democratic form of government and alienated the people who supported him a year ago.

>> is there any concern, though, in a young democracy that the military has stepped in after a year and that this could set a precedent that any time people become unhappy with their leadership that the military could go in and change it and overturn a vote?

>> exactly. you don't want a tightly clad general announcing to the country that the constitution has been suspended. it is a precedent because it could be used theoretically in the future against a good democratically elected president. you don't want that. but what happened in egypt really does not amount to the level of a classic coup. this was not a violent push. this was for the first time in the modern history of the middle east really, you have a soft military coup , if you want to call it that way, by popular demand. look at the scene yesterday. general assisi addressing the egyptian people and telling them about his own road map to the future. he was surrounded not only by military officers he was surrounded by the highest religious leaders of the country, the sunni leader and christian leader, along with the leaders of every major political group . everyone isolated the muslim brotherhood . the danger now is you don't want to push them too far, alienating them too much, so that they will go underground and resort to active terror as they have done in the 1990s against the mubarak regime. this is the threat.

>> quickly, before i let you go, president obama saying last night he's, quote, deeply concerned. besides the $1.3 billion in foreign aid , what is at stake here for the united states ?

>> what's at stake here is the civility of the lynchpin of american influence in the middle east . egypt is a very pivotal country. the president, as you noted, did not use the word coup. his allies are not using the word coup. he will not use the word coup. he will say to the egyptians, as he has to by american law , we want a quick transitional period, no violence, no retribution, and try to be as inclusive as possible. egypt will always remain pivotal for the united states , and this president will not let egypt down. he will support the new government as well as the other u.s. allies in the region, namely saudi arabia and united arab emirates and others.

>> hesham, thanks so much.