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Originally published August 20, 2013 at 5:49 AM | Page modified August 20, 2013 at 2:33 PM

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Turkey: Israel behind Egyptian leader's ouster

Turkey's prime minister on Tuesday accused Israel of being behind the ouster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, offering as the only evidence for his claim a statement by a Jewish French intellectual during a meeting with an Israeli official.

Associated Press

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ANKARA, Turkey —

Turkey's prime minister on Tuesday accused Israel of being behind the ouster of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi, offering as the only evidence for his claim a statement by a Jewish French intellectual during a meeting with an Israeli official.

The Egyptian Cabinet rejected Recep Tayyip Erdogan's statement as baseless and "bewildering," saying its patience was running low with Turkey, one of the biggest critics of the July 3 military coup.

Israel said the claim wasn't worth comment.

In Washington, White House spokesman Josh Earnest called Erdogan's accusation offensive, unsubstantiated and wrong.

In his nationally televised speech, Erdogan also took a swipe at Muslim nations, accusing them of betraying Egypt by supporting the country's military-backed new leaders.

In his nationally televised speech, Erdogan also took a swipe at Muslim nations, accusing them of betraying Egypt by supporting the country's military-backed new leaders.

The evidence Erdogan gave for the alleged Israeli involvement was a meeting in France before elections in Egypt in 2011 between an Israeli justice minister and an unnamed intellectual whom he quoted as saying the Muslim Brotherhood would not be in power even if it wins elections.

"What is said about Egypt? That democracy is not the ballot box. Who is behind this? Israel is. We have the evidence in our hands," Erdogan said in a televised address to officials from his Islamic-rooted, ruling party. "That's exactly what happened."

An aide later told The Associated Press that the evidence Erdogan was referring to was a video "available on the Internet" of a press conference by Israeli Justice Minister Tzipi Livni and French philosopher and author Bernard-Henri Levy.

The official said that as far as he knew, that was the only evidence of the claim. The official spoke on condition of anonymity, in line with government rules that bar him from speaking to reporters without prior authorization.

A video of the two, dating back to 2011, shows Levy saying: "If the Muslim Brotherhood arrives in Egypt, I will not say democracy wants it, so let democracy progress. Democracy is not only elections, it is also values."

Pressed further as to whether he would urge Egypt's military to intervene against the Muslim Brotherhood, Levy says: "I will urge the prevention of them coming to power, but by all sorts of means."

Levy could not immediately be reached for comment.

The Egyptian government said it found Erdogan's comments "very bewildering" and that his statements "are baseless" and "not accepted by any logic or rational."

"Its purpose is to strike at the unity of Egyptians," the statement said.

In Israel, the country's Foreign Ministry spokesman, Yigal Palmor, said Erdogan's comments did not merit a response. "This is a statement well worth not commenting on," he said.

Erdogan criticized Muslim nations for not denouncing Morsi's ouster, saying: "Today, despite the betrayal of brothers, no one will be able to prevent the Egyptian people from taking over the administration of Egypt."

A day earlier, Turkish leaders had strongly criticized the Turkish secretary general of the 57-member Organization of Islamic Cooperation, accusing him of inaction over events in Egypt and suggesting he should resign.

Erdogan has been a strong backer of Morsi as an example of a democratically elected Islamic leader. Turkey and Egypt recalled their ambassadors last week as relations worsened.

The Turkish leader has drawn parallel between Morsi's ouster and a series of anti-government protests in Turkey in June that he has blamed on an international conspiracy to topple his democratically elected government through illegal means.

Turkey's deputy prime minister, Besir Atalay, said soon after the protests that the "Jewish diaspora" was involved in the protests but later retracted the statement, saying he was misunderstood.

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