Washington - US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel urged Egypt's
interim authorities to "advance the political roadmap" in a phone
call with the country's army chief on Tuesday, a Pentagon spokesperson said.
Hagel and General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi also discussed
Egypt's efforts "to maintain security" on the Sinai peninsula and
"to secure and rebuild Coptic Christian communities" hit by violence,
Pentagon press secretary George Little said in a statement.
Hagel "urged Minister Al-Sisi to continue to take steps
to demonstrate the interim government's commitment to advance the political
roadmap," he said.
Relations between Washington and Cairo have come under
strain since Sisi led a 3 July coup against President Mohammed Morsi, the
country's first elected leader, followed by a violent crackdown against his
supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood.
Hagel's phone conversation came after the United States last
week renewed calls for Egypt to lift a state of emergency in force since
August, and amid more arrests of Morsi supporters.
Since Morsi's overthrow by the army in July and his
detention, more than 2,000 members of the Brotherhood have been arrested and
several are facing trial.
Churches, shops and schools belonging to Coptic Christians
meanwhile have come under attack in recent weeks by Morsi loyalists, who accuse
the Christian community of backing the military that toppled the head of state.
And in the Sinai, the Egyptian military has poured in troops
and armor to counter an insurgency that surged after Morsi's overthrow.
Throughout the crisis and despite tensions with Cairo, the
US defence secretary has maintained regular contact with Sisi, partly as a
result of America's deep ties to Egypt's military dating back decades.
Washington has cancelled military exercises with Cairo and
delayed the delivery of fighter jets since Morsi's ouster.
However, the US government has yet to cut off military and
economic aid, worth $1.55bn a year, though officials say the issue is still