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Nation & World

Egypt's outgoing interim president bids farewell

CAIRO — In an emotional farewell speech, Egypt's outgoing interim president on Wednesday said the public must rise to its responsibilities in the face of enormous challenges in a country he said has been scarred by violence, a dilapidated economy, political confusion and international conspiracies threatening its identity and territorial integrity.

Adly Mansour is closing a nearly a year as president. The head of the Supreme Constitutional Court, he was installed as interim president under a military transition plan in July after the ouster of Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, who had faced massive protests after a year in office.

Mansour now hands over office to former army chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, who oversaw Morsi's removal and who won last week's presidential elections in a landslide. El-Sissi is to be sworn in on Sunday.

"It was a year of formidable and immense responsibility. As an ordinary citizen, I never imagined the true extent of the burden, the enormity of the challenges," Mansour said, listing Egypt's woes in a speech that echoed el-Sissi's campaign theme that Egyptians must put end turmoil to allow reconstruction.

He said the country is "in better shape" today after the passing of an amended constitution and the presidential elections.

Mansour becomes Egypt's second president to peacefully hand over office to a successor — the only other one being another interim figure, Sufi Abu Taleb, who served for around a week between President Anwar Sadat, who was assassinated by Islamic militants in 1981, and Hosni Mubarak, who ruled for 29 years until he was toppled in a 2011 popular uprising. Egypt's first president after a 1952 coup against the monarchy, Mohammed Neguib, was removed and put under house arrest by his successor, Gamal Abdel-Nasser, who died in office.

The political arm of Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood said Wednesday it considers el-Sissi's election "null and void" and that it would accept nothing but the reinstatement of Morsi in office.

The Freedom and Justice Party said it "doesn't recognize the alleged coup regime or any of its decisions that have been or will be issued since July 3 until the return of the elected President Mohammed Morsi to his post as the president of the republic of Egypt."

Throughout Mansour's presidency, the Brotherhood and its Islamist allies have held nearly daily protests demanding Morsi's return. They have been met by a fierce crackdown that killed hundreds of Morsi supporters and rounded up thousands more. Most now face trials on charges of inciting violence and belonging to a group that the government now considers a terrorist organization.

In the meantime, a low-level militant insurgency in the Sinai spread to other parts of Egypt, targeting mostly police and military and killing hundreds. Militant groups said they are avenging the removal of Morsi and the crackdown. Non-Islamist critics of the interim authorities increased amid complaints the government was stifling dissent.

Egypt's economy also continued to shrink, with tourism and foreign investment almost coming to a standstill.

Mansour, 68, said instability in the region is engulfing Egypt from all sides, referring to the civil war in Syria, lawlessness in Libya and unrest in other neighbors. He said Egypt has faced conspiracies and plots to destabilize it— a frequent government accusation against Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

"History will inevitably uncover the truth one day, and then you will realize the gravity of the designs and plots against Egypt, the difficulty of this phase and the critical juncture that Egypt was passing through," he said.

For Egypt to regain strength and international standing, he said domestic reforms must come first. But he asked the people to distance themselves from "personal interests, group demands or party inclinations."

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