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Panetta: Morsi is 'his own man'

Panetta: Morsi is 'his own man'
Defense Secretary Leon Panetta (L) testifies alongside Veterans Affairs Secretary Eric Shinseki during a House Armed Services and Veterans' Affairs Committee joint hearing titled "Back From the Battlefield: DOD and VA Collaboration to Assist Service Members Returning to Civilian Life," July 25, 2012 on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C. UPI/Kevin Dietsch | License Photo

CAIRO, July 31 (UPI) -- Newly elected Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi "is his own man" and is committed to democracy, U.S. Defense Secretary Leon Panetta said Tuesday in Cairo.

Morsi "is the president of all the Egyptian people and he is truly committed to implementing democratic reforms," Panetta said after their meeting at the presidential palace, the Defense Department reported. Egypt's defense minister, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, also attended the meeting.

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Panetta said Morsi and Tantawi have a good relationship and share the same goals.

"I was pleased to hear Field Marshal Tantawi confirm his continuing commitment to transition to full civilian rule," Panetta said, adding the U.S.-Egypt defense relationship "has been an anchor of regional stability for more than 30 years, and a positive force during this transition."

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"We have a history of working with the Egyptian military leadership. We will continue to provide the aid and assistance we can to help them in this effort," Panetta said. "Our goal, frankly, is an Egypt that can secure itself in the region."

Panetta then traveled to Israel, where he was scheduled to discuss the nuclear threat Iran poses to the region.

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Israeli and U.S. leaders "continue to work together in the effort to ensure that Iran does not reach that point of developing a nuclear weapon," Panetta said in Cairo before leaving for Tel Aviv.

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"What we are discussing is various contingencies and how we would respond. We don't talk about specific military plans. We continue to run a number of options in that area, but the discussions I will have in Israel [will be to determine] the threat we are confronting and to share both information and intelligence on it," he said.

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