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New Egypt president takes on military over parliament

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Story highlights

  • Mohamed Morsi is looking at ways to restore parliament, his spokesman says
  • The move puts him on a collision course just days after he was sworn in
  • A military council claimed lawmaking power after dissolving parliament
  • Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, took office on Saturday

Egypt's President Mohamed Morsi is looking at ways to return lawmakers to office after parliament was dissolved, his spokesman said Monday, putting the new leader on a likely collision course with the country's powerful military only days after he was sworn in.

Morsi took office on Saturday as Egypt's first democratically elected president, taking the helm of a deeply divided nation that is economically strapped and lacks a working government.

The Muslim Brotherhood-backed leader has ordered his office to look into legal options for bringing parliament back, his acting spokesman Yasser Ali said.

He also ordered the creation of a committee to arrange for the release of political detainees who have no criminal convictions, the Brotherhood said on its website on Sunday.

Restoring parliament would take power away from the country's Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, which ran the county for more than 16 months until Morsi was sworn in, and currently claims legislative authority.

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The nation's top court ruled in June that the laws governing parliamentary elections were invalid, and the following day, SCAF announced it was dissolving parliament.

The legislature was dominated by Islamists, with Muslim Brotherhood-backed candidates having the single largest bloc of seats.

Morsi's historic swearing-in took place amid tight security before the Supreme Constitutional Court and was overseen by the military rulers who have been in control of the country since a popular revolution ousted President Hosni Mubarak last year.

"Today, the Egyptian people established a new life for complete freedom, for a true democracy," Morsi said after taking the oath.

Shortly after the swearing-in, Morsi went to Cairo University, where he gave his first speech as president.

He praised the country's military, but indicated that their control of Egypt's legislative powers would return to civilian hands.

"The (Supreme Council of the Armed Forces) adhered to its pledge to not go beyond of the will of the people. And the elected institutions will come back to take their role, and the great Egyptian army will to go their job to protect the boundaries and security of the country," he said, delineating the army's role.

SCAF has said it will retain lawmaking powers until a new parliament is sworn in near the end of the year.

"We have fulfilled our obligations and the pledge that we took before God and the people. We now have a president who was elected in free elections. Egypt is witnessing a new democratic process," the head of the SCAF, Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, said at a military ceremony for Morsi Saturday.

Egyptians, all Arabs, and the world were witnessing "how authority is transferred from the armed forces to the will of the people to the elected civilian authority," Morsi said.

Morsi's theme in his recent appearances has been one of respect for democracy and the people.

"Today we start a new chapter in the history of Egypt. We turn an old page of an ugly era," he said.

He added, ""I will not betray my country. With the will of God I will fulfill your ambitions."

Morsi became president by defeating Ahmed Shafik, a former air force general who served as Mubarak's last prime minister.

Morsi was the candidate of the Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party, but he resigned from the party shortly after he was elected president.