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U.S. official: Egyptian military trying to stay out of the fray

From Barbara Starr, CNN
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Egypt wants to keep Army away from protests, unnamed U.S. official says
  • Interior Ministry's police preferred to keep order
  • Egypt's Army believes its job is "stability and presence"

(CNN) -- Egyptian officials are indicating that the Egyptian Army is trying to stay out of the clashes between protesters and pro-Mubarak forces, according to a U.S. official.

The assessment comes after a Tuesday morning phone conversation between Mike Mullen, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and his Egyptian counterpart, Lt. Gen. Sami Enan. The unnamed official has direct knowledge of talks between U.S. and Egyptian officials but is not authorized to speak on the record.

During that call, Mullen did not ask his military counterpart specifically what their plans were, the official said. The two had agreed to talk about developments after first talking over the weekend.

Enan updated Mullen on recent developments in the wake of President Hosni Mubarak's speech, according to a statement from Mullen spokesman Capt. John Kirby.

The Egyptian Army fundamentally is not stepping into the growing unrest in Cairo because it believes its job is "stability and presence," based on the latest U.S. intelligence, the U.S. official said. There is no indication that Mubarak has asked them to step in, but intends to keep them in their traditional role.

"The Egyptian Army is trying to stay out of this," the official said. "This is a military force, not a police force."

The official said, "We have indications the Egyptian government wants the Ministry of Interior to take the lead" in restoring order. The official acknowledged that those police forces controlled by Interior are less popular with the Egyptian people, but said the U.S. strongly supports having the Army stay out of the unrest.

"The chairman thanked him for the continued contact, reiterated his desire to see the situation return to calm and expressed his confidence in the Egyptian military's ability to provide for their country's security, both internally and throughout the Suez Canal area," Kirby said in a statement e-mailed to reporters.

 
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