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Egypt's New Leader Dismisses Military Chiefs

New Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi is asserting his authority in the boldest move he's made since assuming the nation's top job.

Update at 4:08 p.m. More Details

The Muslim Brotherhood's Morsi, Egypt's first democratically elected president, ordered the retirement of Defense Minister Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Chief of Staff Gen. Sami Annan. He also restored to the office of the president powers taken from it by the military before his election.

NPR's Leila Fadel called the move "a huge shift in the military-civilian balance in this government."

"This is really quite a historic moment," she told Guy Raz, host of weekends on All Things Considered. "For the first time, you have a civilian leader overturning a military decision. And this allows for Morsi to basically take all the powers of the state in his hands: legislative and executive, and cuts SCAF, or the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, out of decision making going forward."

The two men who replaced Tantawi and Annan are also from the SCAF, raising speculation, Leila says, "that this was done in coordination with at least part of the military council."

Audio for the rest of Leila's conversation with Guy will be available at 7 p.m.

And here's our original post:

NPR's Leila Fadel reports to our Newscast Desk that Morsi just forced the country's two top generals to retire and revoked a constitutional declaration by the generals that had stripped many of his presidential powers.

"A spokesman for Egypt's president says that Morsi demanded that the country's chief of staff and defense minister Mohamed Hussein Tantawi retire, along with the second in command of the military council, Sami Annan.

"The move sent shock waves through the political establishment. Morsi has so far been hesitant to challenge the military authority. Until today, the country's top generals still held most of the reins of power.

"But on Sunday, the spokesman Yasser Ali said in a news conference that the president also cancelled a controversial constitutional amendment that gave the top generals vast powers, including veto power over all governmental decisions.

"He appointed a new defense minister, Abedl Fattah el Sissi and appointed a new Vice President Mahmoud Mekki, Leila Fadel NPR NEWS, Cairo."

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