Graham, McCain in Egypt: Free Morsi Because the American People Would Want It

Sens. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.)  and John McCain (R-Ariz.), in Egypt as unofficial negotiators, suggested that ousted president Mohamed Morsi, behind bars on charges including murder and collusion with Hamas, should be freed because the American people want a "transition to democracy" inclusive of all parties.

The senators were asked by CNN International yesterday how "concerned" they are that public sentiment is so positive toward Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, considered the "most adored" figure in the country for stepping in and helping the millions of Tamarod protesters get rid of Morsi.

"Well, we appreciate his leadership, and we appreciate many aspects of what he's done. But we made it very clear to General Sisi that we are here not to negotiate, but to urge a reconciliation, a dialogue, followed by free and fair elections," McCain said. "Now, General Sisi said to us that he was committed to that process. And so we are, I think guardedly optimistic that he wants the same thing, but guardedly only."

Graham, who has said political prisoners like Muslim Brotherhood instigators held after the ouster should be released, was asked if Morsi should be among those set free.

"My belief is that the American people through their Congress and this administration is not going to support an Egypt that doesn't transition to democracy. I believe Morsi was freely and fairly elected, and the way they govern created great upheaval in this country. For the Muslim Brotherhood not to understand that the criticism coming their way is based on what they did, is a huge mistake," Graham said.

Negotiations toward reconciliation have to include "people who are respected by the Muslim Brotherhood," McCain said. "We can't designate who should do the negotiating."

"There has to be some input from the Muslim Brotherhood, of course, they are part of Egypt. And it's just impossible and not right to negotiate when somebody is in prison. So, two things have to happen, I think, at the same time. The Muslim Brotherhood has to not only renounce violence, but refrain from it. Using violence as a negotiating tool is unacceptable in democracy, and they have to stop that," Graham added.

"It's not that either side has to take the initiative. But I would emphasize that time is not on the side of delay. There are very serious problems in the streets, and we didn't come here to negotiate, we only came to urge as friends a process of a national dialogue and the new election," McCain said.

McCain irritated Egyptian leaders by calling the ouster of Morsi a "coup" at a Cairo press conference on Monday.

"John McCain is distorting facts. His clumsy statements are unacceptable in form and substance," presidential aide Ahmed El-Muslimani told Al-Ahram.