Barack Obama orders US to review aid to Egypt
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President Barack Obama urged Egypt's military Wednesday to hand back control to a democratic, civilian government without delay, but stopped short of calling the ouster of President
Mohammed Morsi a coup.
In a carefully worded statement, Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by the military's move to topple Morsi's government and suspend Egypt's constitution. He said he was ordering the U.S. government to assess what the military's actions meant for U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.
Under U.S. law, the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup d'etat. The U.S. provides $1.5 billion a year to Egypt in military and economic assistance that is considered a critical U.S. national security priority.
"I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters," Obama said.
The U.S. wasn't taking sides in the conflict, committing itself only to democracy and respect for the rule of law, Obama said. With the threat of further unrest roiling Egypt, the State Department ordered all nonessential U.S. diplomats and the families of all American embassy personnel to leave the country.
Hours earlier, Egyptian armed forces ousted Morsi, an Islamist and Egypt's first democratically elected president, after just a year in power. The military installed a temporary civilian government, suspended the constitution and called for new elections. Morsi denounced his ouster as a "full coup" as millions of his critics erupted in delirious scenes of joy in Egyptian cities after the army chief made the announcement on television.
Obama huddled in the White House Situation Room on Wednesday afternoon with Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, Attorney General Eric Holder and his new national security adviser, former U.N. Ambassador Susan Rice. In his statement after the meeting, Obama said he expected the military to protect the rights of Egypt's men and women to due process and peaceful assembly. He reaffirmed his call for a democratic Egypt that involves participation from secular and religious parties alike.