US & Canada

White House refuses to make Egypt 'coup' determination

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Media captionAs the violence raged in Egypt, Jay Carney at the White House called for "maximum restraint"

The White House has refused to describe Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's removal as a coup, saying that term carries "significant consequences".

Spokesman Jay Carney said the US needed to "review what has taken place" and monitor efforts to "forge an inclusive and democratic way forward".

Mr Carney said the US was not taking sides, and dismissed suggestions the US would now cut off foreign aid to Egypt.

Mr Morsi was removed from office by the military amid nation-wide protests.

Mr Carney's remarks came as at least 51 people, including Morsi supporters, were killed in violence in Cairo on Monday.

'Highly charged' issue

At the White House, Mr Carney refused to characterise the events of the past week in Egypt in any way, calling the political upheaval there "an incredibly complex and difficult situation".

The US government is barred by law from giving foreign aid to countries under military coup.

"There are significant consequences that go along with this determination," Mr Carney said, "and it is a highly charged issue for millions of Egyptians who have different views about what happened."

He said the US condemned violent attacks and incitements to violence.

"We remain actively engaged with all sides and we are committed to supporting the Egyptian people as they seek to salvage their nascent democracy," he said.

"But we have been clear that these decisions belong to Egyptians."

'Right thing'

Asked whether the US government was weighing cutting off its estimated $1.5bn (£1bn) in annual aid to Egypt, Mr Carney said the Obama administration believed it "would not be in the best interests of the United States to immediately change our assistance programs to Egypt" but said it would continue to monitor the situation.

Republican Senator John McCain, a prominent voice on foreign policy, called for a suspension of US aid but stopped short of saying Mr Morsi should return to power.

"Current US law is very clear about the implications for our foreign assistance in the aftermath of a military coup against an elected government," Mr McCain said. "I do not want to suspend our critical assistance to Egypt, but I believe that is the right thing to do at this time."

The senator also said the Muslim Brotherhood, the movement to which Mr Morsi belongs, should withdraw calls for a national uprising, and said the Egyptian army should protect Mr Morsi and his supporters from reprisals.

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