John McCain Warns of Islamist Takeover in Egypt; Israel-Hamas Talks to Resume in Cairo

U.S. Sen. John McCain warned Sunday that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi's power grab could lead to formation of an Islamist state or another military takeover even as clashes between Morsi's supporters and opponents continued in the nation that is hosting cease-fire talks between Israel and Hamas.

Asked if Egypt could turn into an Islamist state, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee said on Fox News Sunday, "I think it could be headed that way. You also could be headed back into a military takeover if things went in the wrong direction. You could also see a scenario where there is continued chaos."

McCain said President Barack Obama should use the leverage America has over Egypt. "This is not what the United States and American taxpayers expect and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy, which you promised the people of Egypt, when your party and you were elected president."

It's not just about the substantial billions in aid, McCain added, it's also about "debt forgiveness, plus an IMF deal, but also the marshaling [of] world public opinion [that] is also against this kind of move by Mr. Morsi."

Morsi, who is from the political wing of the Islamist Muslim Brotherhood, will meet with the nation's highest body of judges, Supreme Judicial Council, on Monday to discuss the ramifications of last week's controversial constitutional declaration, according to the state-run news agency MENA.

While many judges were not striking across the nation, the Council on Saturday blasted Morsi for declaring last Thursday that no one can overturn any decree or law he will issue – or has issued since he took office in June. The declaration also protects both the Shura Council and the Islamist-dominated Constituent Assembly from dissolution by any judicial authority, and extends the constitution-writing body's mandate by two months. Egypt has an interim constitution since 2011. The council called the declaration "an unprecedented violation [of] the independence of the judiciary and its rulings."

Justice Minister Ahmed Mekky is spearheading efforts to end the crisis between the government and the judiciary, according to Egypt Independent.

While Morsi has said the declaration stands only until the new constitution is finalized and seeks to clear the political obstacles posed by remnants of the old regime, secularists are demanding that he revoke the decree. "Egypt is moving towards a point beyond fixing," Amr Hamzawy, a political scientist and leader of Egypt Freedom party, was quoted as saying. "Our stance is clear and there is no room for maneuvering. We decided not to hold any talks [with the president or his party] before this declaration is abrogated."

The Muslim Brotherhood has called for a mass demonstration in Cairo and other governorates on Tuesday to support Morsi's declaration, according to the group's website. Secular and liberal parties opposing the declaration have also called for protests on Tuesday, and tensions are feared.

Morsi's move raises concerns also for Egypt's Coptic Christians, who have faced numerous attacks after the ouster of President Mubarak last year. Mubarak, an authoritarian leader, kept Islamists under tight control.

Meanwhile, amid domestic tensions, a high-level delegation from Gaza arrived in Egypt "to complete arrangements for cease-fire talks" between Hamas and Israel, CNN reported.

According to the office of Hamas Prime Minister Ismail Haniyeh, talks will resume Monday in Cairo between Israelis and Egyptians to further discuss the details of the cease-fire, which began to take hold last week as Israeli ground forces gathered near the Gaza border for a possible ground invasion. Talks will include opening border crossings and easing Israel's economic blockade in Gaza.

The eight-day conflict left more than 160 Palestinians and six Israelis dead.

Palestinian Authority leaders have said they are renewing their bid for statehood before the United Nations this week. "All the Palestinian factions are behind us as we go tomorrow to the United Nations," Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas said Sunday on Palestine TV. However, Hamas spokesman Taher al-Nunu said there was "no truth" to reports that Haniyeh's office "has blessed the move to go to the United Nations."