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US says ‘it’s clear Egyptians have spoken’

State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki: "It wasn't a democratic rule. That's the whole point."

Fireworks light up the sky as Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrate the ousting of Morsi in Tahrir square on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.  (AFP Photo)
Fireworks light up the sky as Hundreds of thousands of Egyptians celebrate the ousting of Morsi in Tahrir square on July 3, 2013 in Cairo, Egypt.
(AFP Photo)

By Joanna Biddle (AFP) –  Seven days after the Egyptian military deposed the democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi, the United States has still not decided whether to call his ouster a “coup.”

But top US officials on Wednesday, while continuing to insist the United States was not taking sides in Egypt’s political upheaval, sought to untangle the convoluted position taken by the Obama administration.

“It’s clear that the Egyptian people have spoken,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki, when asked whether Washington still considered Morsi the legitimate president.

“There’s an interim government in place… this is leading the path to democracy, we are hopeful. And we are in touch with a range of actors. But obviously, he is no longer in his acting position.”

Challenged about the fact that, before his ouster, Egypt already had a democratically elected government, Psaki replied: “It wasn’t a democratic rule. That’s the whole point.”

While the United States had endorsed the Islamist leader’s election last year as “free and fair,” the administration of President Barack Obama had found him a mercurial partner and had long been uneasy about his failure to introduce a pluralistic government.

Nevertheless, millions of Egyptians came to believe the US administration was in fact trying to shore up an Islamist leadership.

Such charges might only be heightened if the US denounces the military’s actions as a coup, while also paving the way to a freezing of some vital $1.5 billion in US aid.

So US officials are engaged in verbal acrobatics, insisting Washington’s role is to help ensure the country returns to a democratically elected civilian government, without passing judgement yet on last week’s events.

“We remain deeply concerned about the removal of President Morsi from power,” White House spokesman Jay Carney said.

But he stressed there were “consequences” about how they “designate the events that happen in Egypt.”

Psaki highlighted that some 22 million people had signed a petition calling for Morsi’s removal. That “is a large number of people to voice their concerns about the method of governing,” she said.

The ousted leader has not been seen in public since the Egyptian military arrested him on July 3. Egyptian officials say he is in a “safe place,” but has not been charged.

Psaki said his case had been raised by US officials in contacts with interim Egyptian leaders, but she refused to say whether Washington was calling for his release.

“The United States has conveyed strongly and clearly to the Egyptian military that the treatment of anyone who is arbitrarily arrested — whether it’s President Morsi or other members of the Muslim Brotherhood — is important to the United States,” Psaki said.

“And we believe that the interim government must follow due process and, of course, respect the rule of law.”

She also defended US ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, who has been the focus of some protestors’ anger, accusing her of interfering in the country’s politics.

“We firmly reject any claim, in the Egyptian press or otherwise… that we have been supporting certain sides,” Psaki reiterated.

There was so much “political polarization” that “various political actors… are attempting to cloud the issues on the ground by making false claims instead of addressing the difficult issues Egypt currently faces.”

Carney added that the situation in Egypt was “complex,” “difficult” and “challenging” but said the country must return to an elected civilian government.

“The alternative is chaos. The alternative is a failure of Egypt to reach its potential, its enormous potential,” he said.

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  • Ibrahim Ben Nemsi

    It seems that anything the Americans say at the moment will be held against them. Yet some of the accusations are plainly ridiculous – like the one that the US Government forced the army to rig the elections in Mursi’s favour, and the one that the recent coup was all planned by the Americans.

    Surely, US Foreign Policy deserves to be viewed with some degree of suspicion, especially given their unsavoury history, which includes the support for fascist military regimes all over Latin America, the Vietnam war and the invasion of Iraq.

    But when it comes to Egypt, the Americans are actually pursuing a sensible course by encouraging the different sides to find common ground.

    It seems they have the wisdom that many Egyptian politicians are lacking at the moment – they have realised that both islamists and liberals are important parts of Egyptian society, and that peace and prosperity can only be achieved by compromise, not by any one side trying to defeat and eliminate the other.

  • RAMI
  • sam enslow

    There is an article in El Ahram Online today (the government rag) that is very critical of the US debate on immigration reform and which is very critical of the posturing of US politicians. It shows a total lack of knowledge of how the US political system works. Now this is an internal US matter. Are Egyptians applying the same double standard they always say the Americans are? Seems so.

    • MaximusBoomaye

      Of course they are, and has always been. the concept of democracy in Egypt has nothing to do with democracy in the west, in fact there is no clear definition for the term. when an elected leader feels free to turn dictator ‘briefly’ to get rid of his opponent (the remnant or the so called feloul) grant himself powers, temporarily of course ( I don’t want to rile up the MB lawyers in the forum) prosecute comedians, satirists and journalist, who don’t work for Ahram online, for “insulting the president”. but hey, he is elected fair and square by all 13 million people, that’s almost half the poplulation of Shobra, the MAJORITY… you hear that! MAJORITY ( am I screaming loud enough?) so now he has the right to do whatever a democratic ruler in Egypt has ever done. Slamming U.S. for international or domestic policy was very fashionable with Nasserists in the 1950’s. now the movement is back, criticizing the U.S. is in vogue, and Ahram is the biggest turncoat, worthless piece of junk as far as journalism is concerned, so you might be the only american who read the article besides few other political junkies whom can never have enough, ( I am the same way, by the way. But Al Ahram!? come on!).. a bunch of brown nosed, knock off writers who will kiss up to anyone in power.

  • Ibrahim Ahmed

    A sincere warning! To all Americans and people in the West, I am afraid to say the World organization Muslim Brotherhood is the real threat to your civilization. They clearly plan to get your help nowadays and then start building up their limitless border country ( Imara Islamia ) after being strengthened and spread all over the world. They dream of restoring Spain first . I think President Obama has taken unforgettable step if he really has helped Morsi and the Muslim Brotherhood In Egypt. If he tries to repeat the American experience in Iraq, surely he is pushing America and the West into a bitter situation that may lead to the disappearance of your civilization. The members of the Muslim Brotherhood aren’t so naive. As well as that, Egypt is not like any other country in the Middle East. Think again!

  • Pingback: Egypt Daily Update – July 12: U.S. Expresses Worry Over ‘Politicized’ Arrests | Project on Middle East Democracy (POMED)()

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