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Egypt's el-Sissi, presumed presidential front-runner, visits Coptic pope ahead of Easter

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CAIRO — Egypt's former military chief and presidential front-runner has visited the Coptic pope ahead of Orthodox Easter, making his first public appearance since he formally made his bid for the presidency.

PHOTO: Egypt's former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left,  meets with Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, April 19, 2014. El-Sissi on Monday took the final formal step to run in next month's presidential election, submitting to the election commission eight times the number of signatures required. He is widely expected to win. (AP Photo/Girgis Mahboub, Office of the Coptic Pope)
Egypt's former military chief Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, left, meets with Coptic Pope Tawadros II at Cairo’s St. Mark’s Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox Pope, in Cairo, Egypt, Saturday, April 19, 2014. El-Sissi on Monday took the final formal step to run in next month's presidential election, submitting to the election commission eight times the number of signatures required. He is widely expected to win. (AP Photo/Girgis Mahboub, Office of the Coptic Pope)

As military chief, Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi removed Egypt's first democratically elected president, Islamist Mohammed Morsi, last summer after a wave of popular protests demanding he steps down. Pope Tawadros backed the military's overthrow.

Saturday's visit by el-Sissi to the St. Mark's Cathedral, seat of the Coptic Orthodox pope, is his first public appearance since he formalized his bid this week. According to a statement, el-Sissi told Pope Tawadros that Christians and Muslims will remain united.

El-Sissi, riding a wave of widespread support for the military after Morsi's ouster, is widely expected to win the coming May presidential election.

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