(CNSNews.com) – President Obama phoned the Muslim Brotherhood’s Mohammed Morsi on Sunday evening to congratulate him on becoming Egypt’s new president, the U.S. Embassy in Cairo said in a Twitter message around 7 PM eastern time.
Earlier, White House press secretary Jay Carney in a statement called the Islamist’s election a “milestone” in Egyptians’ transition to democracy.
“Millions of Egyptians voted in the election, and President-elect Morsi and the new Egyptian government have both the legitimacy and responsibility of representing a diverse and courageous citizenry,” he said.
Egypt’s election commission earlier announced that Morsi had beaten his second-round opponent, former prime minister Ahmed Shafiq, by a margin of 51.7 to 48.3 percent – or just 800,000 votes.
Results had been delayed for four days, worsening an already tense atmosphere after an incident-laden campaign, including a recent court ruling dissolving the Muslim Brotherhood-dominated parliament and claims of a power grab by the ruling military council.
Carney commended both the election commission and the military council “for their role in supporting a free and fair election, and look forward to the completion of a transition to a democratically-elected government.”
“We look forward to working together with President-elect Morsi and the government he forms, on the basis of mutual respect, to advance the many shared interests between Egypt and the United States,” the statement read.
“We believe that it is important for President-elect Morsi to take steps at this historic time to advance national unity by reaching out to all parties and constituencies in consultations about the formation of a new government.
“We believe in the importance of the new Egyptian government upholding universal values, and respecting the rights of all Egyptian citizens – including women and religious minorities such as Coptic Christians.”
In his first address after the results were announced, Morsi said on state television he would be the leader “of all Egyptians.” Copts were widely reported to have supported non-Islamist candidates in the first round of voting, and Shafiq in the runoff.
Iran’s foreign ministry hailed Morsi’s victory, declaring that Egypt was in the “final stages of the Islamic Awakening and a new era of change in the Middle East.”
Celebrations were reported in the Gaza Strip, where tens of thousands of Palestinians demonstrated. Hamas leader called Morsi’s win “a victory for all Arabs and Muslims.”
Hamas, the terrorist group that controls Gaza, was set up in 1987 as a Palestinian branch of the Muslim Brotherhood. Its founding charter calls for Jews to be killed and says all Muslims are duty-bound to join a jihad to destroy Israel. The U.S. government has designated Hamas as a “foreign terrorist organization” since 1997.
Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu’s office said in a brief statement it respected the outcome of the Egyptian election.
“Israel looks forward to continuing cooperation with the Egyptian government on the basis of the peace treaty between the two countries, which is a joint interest of both peoples and contributes to regional stability,” it said.
Egypt in 1979 became the first Arab country to sign a peace agreement with the Jewish state, and U.S. governments have over the ensuing decades given Egypt more than $60 billion in military aid linked to the treaty.
The fall of the Mubarak regime last year and the rise of Islamist forces prompted concerns about the future of the agreement. In a recent Pew Global Attitudes Project poll 61 percent of Egyptian respondents favored ending the treaty, up from 54 percent a year earlier.