Egypt’s new President Mohamed Morsi, who is on his maiden visit to the U.S., is urging Washington to change its approach to the Arab world and adjust to its transformation.
Morsi, who will attend a meeting of the U.N. General Assembly in New York Sunday, said in an interview with the New York Times that the U.S. needs to show greater respect to the values of the Arab world and help build a Palestinian state to restore bilateral trust.
"Successive American administrations essentially purchased with American taxpayer money the dislike, if not the hatred, of the peoples of the region," Morsi told the Times, referring to Washington lending support to dictatorial governments over popular opposition and to Israel over the Palestinians.
Morsi said if Washington wants Egypt to honor its treaty with Israel, it should fulfill its own Camp David commitment to Palestinian self-rule. "As long as peace and justice are not fulfilled for the Palestinians, then the treaty remains unfulfilled," he said.
He urged the U.S. to respect the Arab world’s history and culture, even when it did not match Western values.
He said the U.S. can’t expect Egyptians to live by its rules: “If you want to judge the performance of the Egyptian people by the standards of German, or Chinese, or American culture, then there is no room for judgment,” he said. “When the Egyptians decide something, probably it is not appropriate for the U.S. When the Americans decide something, this, of course, is not appropriate for Egypt.”
The Islamist leader, however, lauded U.S. President Barack Obama for moving "decisively and quickly" to support the Arab Spring revolutions, saying that the U.S. supported "the right of the people of the region to enjoy the same freedoms that Americans have."
He indicated that Egypt would not be hostile to the West, but would not be as compliant as the ousted dictator Hosni Mubarak either, the Times reported.
In the interview -- which followed a week of violent anti-American protests across Middle East and North Africa over an anti-Islamic movie produced in the U.S. -- Morsi dismissed Washington’s criticism that his government was not quick enough in condemning the protesters who illegally entered the U.S. Embassy in Cairo and burnt the American flag.
“We took our time” in responding to avoid a backlash, Morsi said, but dealt “decisively” with the small, violent element among the demonstrators.
“We can never condone this kind of violence, but we need to deal with the situation wisely,” he said, noting that the embassy employees’ safety was never in jeopardy.
Morsi had initially requested to meet with Obama at the White House during the visit, but later dropped the request mindful of the American politics with the presidential election looming.
Commenting on the protests in Cairo, Obama said Sept. 12 that Egypt was neither an ally nor enemy of the U.S.
"I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," Obama said in an interview aired by MSNBC.
Morsi, when asked if he considered U.S. an ally, smiled and said: “That depends on your definition of ally,” but added that he envisioned the two nations as “real friends.”