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US calls on Egypt's Morsi to 'bridge divisions'

December 25, 2012

An Egyptian woman cuts her hair during a demonstration in Tahrir Square, Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Dec. 25, 2012. Women cut their hair to protest against the Islamist-oriented constitution on Tuesday. Arabic on the banner reads, “do not marginalize the role of a woman.” – Photo by AP

WASHINGTON: The United States on Tuesday called on Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi to work to “bridge divisions,” after Egyptian officials confirmed voters backed a controversial Islamist-backed constitution.

“The future of Egypt's democracy depends on forging a broader consensus behind its new democratic rules and institutions,” State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell said in a statement.

“President Morsi... has a special responsibility to move forward in a way that recognizes the urgent need to bridge divisions, build trust, and broaden support for the political process.” Earlier Tuesday, Egypt's electoral commission confirmed that 64 percent of voters had backed the constitution in the two-stage referendum that ended at the weekend -- a process the opposition said was marred by fraud.

The battle over the constitution led to a month of protests, some of them violent, including clashes on December 5 that killed eight people and injured hundreds.

Washington has consistently supported Egypt on its path to democracy following the ouster last year of veteran leader Hosni Mubarak, Ventrell said, while cautioning that the voices of the opposition must not be squelched.

“We have called for genuine consultation and compromise across Egypt's political divides. (...) And we hope all sides will re-commit themselves to condemn and prevent violence,” the spokesman said.

“Egypt needs a strong, inclusive government to meet its many challenges,” Ventrell added.

He said the future of the country, a key US ally, “depends not on the ability of one side to prevail over the other,” but rather on the commitment of all to “find a more united path forward.”