Egypt's Islamist President, Mohamed Morsi, dismissed two senior generals yesterday and cancelled a military order that curbed his powers, in a move that could free him of some of the restrictions of military rule.
It was not clear how far the measures were agreed with the dismissed Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, whose Supreme Council of the Armed Forces had taken over when President Hosni Mubarak was deposed, nor how far they would shift the power balance between the generals and Mr Morsi's long-suppressed Muslim Brotherhood.
A council member said Mr Morsi, a moderate popularly elected in June but with his constitutional powers sharply circumscribed in advance by the generals, consulted Field Marshal Tantawi, 76, and General Sami Enan, 64, the military chief of staff, before ordering both men to retire.
Coupled with what Mr Morsi's spokesman called the cancellation of the constitutional curbs issued just before his election, the surprise move seemed to indicate a substantial re-ordering of Egypt's political forces as the country waits for a new constitution after six decades of unbroken army rule. "Field Marshal Tantawi has been transferred into retirement from today," Mr Morsi's spokesman said, appointing in his place as armed forces chief and Defence Minister General Abdellatif Sisi. General Enan was replaced by General Sidki Sobhi.
General Enan, who was long seen as particularly close to the US military – the main sponsor of Egypt's armed forces, and Field Marshal Tantawi, who was Mr Mubarak's Defence Minister for 20 years before helping to ease him out 18 months ago, were both appointed as advisers to Mr Morsi.
General Mohamed el-Assar, who sits on the military council, said: "The decision was based on consultation with the Field Marshal and the rest of the military council."
Mr Morsi, who has said he will stand by Cairo's treaties with Israel and other countries, has shown impatience with the military council after violence in the Sinai desert brought trouble with Israel and the Palestinians of Gaza. He sacked his intelligence chief last week after Islamist militants killed 16 Egyptian guards before trying to storm the border with Israel.