Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi, in an exclusive interview with Fox News, appealed to the U.S. to play a greater role in helping his country fight terrorism -- as he urged the creation of an "Arab ready force" to confront the Islamic State and similar groups.
The Egyptian leader spoke with Fox News' Bret Baier in an extensive interview conducted in Cairo. He addressed the need for what he called a religious "revolution," urging moderate Muslims around the world to "stand up" against terrorists twisting their religion.
But in the short term, he said more military might and funding will be needed to confront the extremist threat and questioned whether the U.S. was doing enough for Egypt.
El-Sisi, speaking mostly through a translator, said that while the U.S. has helped Egypt for decades, Egypt needs that help "more than ever," and wants to see a "big response from capable countries."
He said the suspension of U.S. equipment and arms to his country has sent a "negative indication to the public opinion that the United States is not standing by the Egyptians."
El-Sisi -- who eventually took power after former President Mohammed Morsi was overthrown in 2013 -- was referring to aid and shipments that have been held up in the wake of Morsi's ouster. Though the U.S. continues to deliver nearly $1.5 billion a year in mostly military assistance, some high-profile shipments have been halted since the military leadership overthrew Morsi -- and particularly since the military's crackdown on Islamist groups. This includes holding back on deliveries of F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 tanks and Harpoon missiles.
In December, the Pentagon delivered a previously stalled shipment of 10 Apache helicopters to Egypt.
El-Sisi told Fox News the need for weapons and equipment remains "dire," and Egyptians "would like to feel that the United States is standing by them."
Asked directly how he and other Arab allies view U.S. leadership in the region, he answered briefly in English: "Difficult questions."
He addressed his country's campaign against terrorism weeks after the Islamic State released a video showing 21 Egyptian Christians being beheaded. That video triggered Egyptian airstrikes on ISIS targets in Libya -- airstrikes that, according to the Pentagon, the Egyptians did not notify the U.S. of in advance.
At the time, even the top Pentagon spokesman acknowledged the U.S. and Egypt have a "complex relationship."
While Egypt is not currently launching airstrikes alongside the U.S. and other Arab nations in Iraq and Syria, el-Sisi endorsed the idea of an "Arab ready force" with U.S. backing to take on security challenges.
He said this "ready force" could include his country, Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Jordan and others, and be "capable of defending our national security" and confronting dangers in the region.
The Egyptian president first called for such a regional coalition in a speech last month. In the interview with Fox News, he stressed that ISIS and other groups pose a growing threat.
"We have to admit that terrorism is now a major threat not only to Egypt or even the immediate region, but it is a threat to the stability and security of the whole world," the Egyptian leader said. "We can also see that the map of terrorism and extremism is expanding, it is not recessing."
He also said it's important to push to "reinstate the right meaning of religion." Addressing the role of the Muslim Brotherhood in his country, he spoke out against what he described as "political Islam."
He said the people of Egypt have a "real fear of this kind" of system, adding they feel "these people have turned their lives into a living hell."
He made these remarks in the course of defending the ouster of Morsi, who had been aligned with the Muslim Brotherhood. Responding to characterizations of his removal as a "coup," el-Sisi acknowledged that "free and fair elections" resulted in Morsi's election. But he said millions of Egyptians took to the streets when they wanted to remove that leadership -- he claimed the country was headed into a "vicious cycle of civil war," at the time he and other military leaders intervened.
Meanwhile, amid some concerns expressed by el-Sisi about the U.S. commitment to his country, Secretary of State John Kerry announced Monday he will travel to Egypt on March 12 to attend an economic development conference. Kerry plans to meet with el-Sisi and other senior Egyptian leaders to discuss various issues including efforts to fight ISIS.