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Apr 19, 10:49 AM EDT

Egypt's TV satirist off air until after elections

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CAIRO (AP) -- A Saudi-owned satellite television network says Egypt's top satirist will be off the air until after the upcoming May presidential election to avoid influencing voters.

The Middle East Broadcasting Center said Saturday that Bassem Youssef will be off the air to show "respect for the election process, and to strive to avoid influencing Egyptian voters' orientation and public opinion."

Youssef is often compared to U.S. comedian Jon Stewart. MBC began airing Youssef's show in February after an Egyptian private channel suspended it last fall for attacking "symbols of the state."

Youssef has ridiculed the recent surge of nationalism in Egypt, as well as the euphoria surrounding the country's former military chief, currently the front-runner in the presidential race.

THIS IS A BREAKING NEWS UPDATE. Check back soon for further information. AP's earlier story is below.

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.

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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