Washington has expressed concern over the seizure of executive powers by Egypt’s ruling military council. The body has trimmed the powers of the winner of Sunday’s presidential elections, and dissolved parliament.
Concern about recent events – described by critics of the Egyptian military as "a coup" - was voiced by both the US State Department and the Pentagon on Monday.
The generals in charge of Egypt's transitional administration issued a "constitutional declaration" late on Sunday before the counting of ballots in the election even began.
The council said it would maintain authority over the drafting of laws and a new constitution, with no civilian oversight of their budget and other affairs.
The declaration also removes the title of "Supreme Commander of the Armed Forces" from the next president, removing his right to a say in the affairs of the military.
Washington, which has long maintained close links to the country's military establishment, voiced concern over the move, and its timing.
US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the US was "concerned by decisions that appear to prolong the military's hold on power."
"This is a critical moment in Egypt, and the world is watching closely," Nuland told a news briefing.
"We call on the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) to restore popular and international confidence in the democratic transition process by following through on their stated commitments."
US defence chiefs urge change
The Pentagon - which is responsible for maintaining the close military links between the countries - also expressed anxiety about the timing.
Press secretary George Little said the Pentagon urged the generals "to relinquish power to civilian-elected authorities and to respect the universal rights of the Egyptian people and the rule of law."
Doubts have been expressed in Washington about the prudence of continuing to give military aid to Egypt, in light of the SCAF's apparent reticence to transfer executive functions.
For years, Egypt has received more than $1 billion in military aid from the US.
The council has also dissolved the Islamist-led parliament following a ruling by the country's highest court last week.
The country's rivals for the presidency - the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood's Mohammed Morsi and Mubarak's last premier, Ahmed Shafiq - both claimed victory in Sunday's runoff elections.
The Brotherhood called for a mass protest on Tuesday and said it would take part in "all popular activities against the constitutional coup and the dissolution of parliament."
Secular and leftist Egyptians fear that Morsi will pursue a religious, anti-liberal agenda, while Shafiq's critics claim he is a remnant of the old regime and a threatened a "second revolution" if he comes to power.
rc/ (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)