Monday, July 08, 2013

White House won't say whether Egypt was a coup

From: Politico

The White House is taking its time to determine whether the overthrow of Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi was a coup because of the potential fallout from calling it one, press secretary Jay Carney said Monday.

"I'm being very clear with you ... this is a complex and difficult issue with significant consequences," Carney said during his daily briefing, the first since Egypt's military ousted Morsi nearly a week ago. Calling the action a coup could cut off more than $1.5 billion in annual U.S. foreign aid for Egypt.

But the Obama administration is reluctant to cut off aid. "We think it would not be in the best interests of the United States" to change its aid program at this time, Carney said. Asked if that would mean the administration would be cutting off aid in the near-term, Carney repeated his response: "we think that would not be in our best interests."

Meanwhile, Sen. John McCain (R-Ariz.) has called for the U.S. government to cut off its aid. "I do not want to suspend our critical assistance to Egypt, but I believe that is the right thing to do at this time," he said in a statement Monday. “This is an incredibly difficult decision, but we have to learn the lessons of history and remain true to our values. If millions of Egyptians come to believe that democracy offers them no opportunity to advance their goals peacefully, it will only fuel violence and extremism. That is a path to civil conflict." Sen. Pat Leahy (D-Vt.) has also said that Egypt is in danger of losing its eligibility for foreign aid.

Carney said the White House is taking its time, though he wouldn't specify whether that meant a decision would come in a matter of days or longer.

"It is not in our interest in moving particularly quickly" in determining what last week's actions mean, he said, and it is an issue that is "charged" for tens of millions of  Egyptians who have differing views on what happened. At this point, he stressed, "the U.S. is not aligned with -- nor is it supporting -- any particular political party or group."

"Our objective is to promote efforts at reconciliation and inclusion" and progress toward democratic governance, Carney said, repeating: "we will take the time necessary to do that in a way that is responsible and that will serve our longer term policy objectives."

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki made similar statements during her Monday press briefing.

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