by Jo Biddle
by Jo Biddle
WASHINGTON, July 07, 2013 (AFP)
The United States on Sunday was left eyeing the political turmoil in Egypt from the sidelines, insisting it was not taking sides, yet increasingly concerned about a key ally descending into chaos.
The US administration has been caught in a semantic nightmare about whether to call Wednesday’s ousting of the nation’s first democratically elected president Mohamed Morsi by the military a coup.
Under US law, that would mean some $1.5 billion in military and economic assistance to Egypt would have to be frozen, risking undermining the powerful army at a time when the country’s future direction has yet to be determined.
But standing on the fence is leaving the administration of President Barack Obama looking increasingly weak both domestically and in Egypt, where many Egyptians see the US as trying to prop up the Morsi administration.
One US lawmaker suggested Obama should go before Congress to argue why the United States needs to keep up its assistance to the Egyptian military.
“I think the law is very clear on this, and I think we ought to be honest with ourselves. And I don’t think that skirting the law here is the right thing to do.
The president should come to Congress and make the case,” argued Representative Mike Rogers, chairman of the House intelligence committee.
He told CNN Sunday the US should “continue to support the military, the one stabilizing force in Egypt that I think can temper down the political feuding.”
Influential Republican Senator John McCain has called for a suspension of US aid “because the Egyptian military has overturned the vote of the people.”
“We cannot repeat the same mistakes we made at other times in our history by supporting the removal of freely elected governments,” he said Friday, adding the generals needed to set a timetable for new elections and a new constitution.
But Egypt’s ambassador to the US, Mohamed Tawfik, insisted on ABC television: “Egypt has not undergone a military coup, and it is certainly not run by the military. Today, there is an interim president in place.”
“So now we want new elections. We’re going to get new elections. We’re going to get a new parliament,” Tawfik said, adding the process must be inclusive.
Behind the scenes top US cabinet officials have been in constant contact with Egyptian military and political leaders, calling for a peaceful transition back to civilian rule.
Obama on Saturday convened a meeting of his National Security Council and again condemned the violence seen on Egyptian streets and stressed the United States is “not aligned” with any side.
“The United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt’s transition should proceed,” a White House statement said.
Former US ambassdor to Egypt, Abil Fahmy, who is rumored to be the possible foreign minister in a new Egyptian administration, told NBC: “We are trying to establish a government, an interim president, consulting to try to get the widest possible support for the new prime minister.”
He added it was hoped a new prime minister would be named within hours, and a roadmap would then be set out for elections.
“The military acted in response to the people,” he said. “They did oust the president, that’s true. But then they handed over government immediately to the interim president.”
Nobel peace laureate Mohamed ElBaradei, who has been named as a possible interim prime minister, had been due to appear on NBC television on Sunday but abruptly canceled saying he had “laryngitis and a fever” and was under doctor’s orders not to do any television interveiws.
The official MENA news agency said on Saturday that caretaker president Adly Mansour had appointed ElBaradei, only for his office to later deny any final decision had been taken.