Obama administration: No coup in Egypt

2013-07-25 21:36

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Washington - The Obama administration will tell lawmakers on Thursday that it will not declare Egypt's government overthrow a coup, US officials said, allowing the US to continue providing $1.5bn in annual military and economic aid to the country.

William Burns, an official at the State Department, will hold closed-doors briefings with members of the House and Senate just a day after Washington delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt.

It was the first US action since the military ousted Mohammed Morsi as president, imprisoned him and other Muslim Brotherhood members and suspended the constitution earlier this month.

The administration has been forced into difficult contortions to justify not declaring a coup d'état, which would prompt the automatic suspension of American assistance programmes under US law.

Washington fears that halting such funding could imperil programmes that help to secure Israel's border and fight weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, among other things seen as critical to US national security.

It is unclear what specific arguments it will present on Thursday, but the officials said Burns will explain how the administration has yet to make any coup determination and that it doesn't plan to do so in the future as Egypt moves to restore civilian governance and hold new democratic elections.

The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren't authorised to speak publicly ahead of the private meetings.

Many from both parties in Congress sympathise with the administration's view and the need to back a military that has safeguarded Egypt's peace with Israel for three decades.

Coup law

Still, some across the political spectrum disagree. Republicans from libertarian Senator Rand Paul to hawkish Senator John McCain, and Democrats such as Senator Carl Levin have demanded the coup law be enforced.

The law stipulates, however, that it is President Barack Obama and his administration's decision on how to characterise Morsi's 3 July overthrow.

White House and State Department officials pointed shortly afterward to the large anti-Morsi protests that preceded the military's action and said Morsi's Islamist-led government, while democratically elected, was taking Egypt down an increasingly undemocratic path.

Since then, the president and his national security team have tried to balance support for the military's proposed return to constitutional rule and democratic elections alongside concern over the crackdown on key Morsi allies.

The delay of the fighter jets, scheduled for delivery this month, was the first direct action the US took since the upheaval.

However, the Pentagon said this week the US was proceeding as planned with this year's joint military exercises.

The biennial manoeuvres were cancelled in 2011 following the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

During Mubarak's three decades in power, Egypt was America's premier ally in the Arab world and at the heart of its efforts to fight Islamic terrorism, roll back Iranian influence across the Middle East and promote peace among Israel and its Muslim neighbours.

Read more on:    barack obama  |  us  |  egypt  |  egypt crisis

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