By Steve Holland
WASHINGTON, July 8 (Reuters) - The White House refused to label the military ouster of Egypt's president a coup on Monday and said there would be no immediate cut-off in U.S. aid to Egypt in a move that distances Washington from the country's toppled Muslim Brotherhood leadership.
White House spokesman Jay Carney, peppered with questions about Egypt at his daily briefing, struggled to explain how Washington could avoid calling the ouster of Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi a coup.
"This is an incredibly complex and difficult situation," said Carney, noting that millions of Egyptians had legitimate grievances with Mursi. "There are significant consequences that go along with this determination, and it is a highly charged issue for millions of Egyptians who have differing views about what happened."
Labeling the intervention a coup would require the United States to cut its $1.5 billion in assistance for Egypt and take away what little leverage Washington has with Cairo, leaving it with few options to help shape events in Egypt.
President Barack Obama and his top aides have denounced the ouster of the democratically elected Mursi but have been careful to avoid calling for him to be reinstated, prompting speculation that the United States tacitly supported his ouster.
Instead, they have voiced support in general for a return to democratic rule, a reflection at least in part of U.S. weariness with the Mursi government, which officials felt was largely ineffective.
Republican Senator John McCain, by contrast, has been blunt about what happened and that U.S. aid should be cut off in accordance with U.S. law.
"It is difficult for me to conclude that what happened was anything other than a coup in which the military played a decisive role," McCain said on Monday. While he does not want to see U.S. aid cut off, "I believe that it is the right thing to do at this time," he said.
From the Obama administration's perspective, however, the view was that it would serve U.S. long-term interests better to delay making a decision about whether a coup had taken place or not.
As a result, Carney said, the U.S. government will take its time to review what happened in Egypt and monitor efforts by Egyptian authorities to forge an inclusive democratic process for the future. He gave no indication how long this review might take.
"We will take the time necessary to do that in a way that is responsible and serves our longer term policy objectives," he said.
Egypt has been engulfed by protests and violence since last Wednesday's military takeover.
The State Department called on the Egyptian army to exercise "maximum restraint" in dealing with protesters after at least 51 people were killed when the military opened fire on Mursi supporters on Monday.
"We strongly condemn any violence as well as any incitement of violence," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki told a briefing. "We call on the military to use maximum restraint responding to protesters, just as we urge all of those demonstrating to do so peacefully." (Additional reporting by Lesley Wroughton, Arshad Mohammed and Roberta Rampton; Editing by Eric Walsh)
07/08/2013 5:45 PM EDT
More Details On The Elections
More from Reuters on the planned parliamentary elections:
(Reuters) - Egypt will hold new parliamentary elections once amendments to its suspended constitution are approved in a referendum, the interim head of state decreed on Monday, setting out a timeframe that could see a legislative vote in about six months.
A presidential election would be called once the new legislative chamber convenes, the decree said. It set a four-and-a-half month timeframe for amendments to the country's controversial, Islamist-tinged constitution that was passed into law in December.
That constitution was suspended last week when the army removed Islamist President Mohamed Morsi from power following mass protests against his rule.
-- Eline Gordts
07/08/2013 5:39 PM EDT
Parliament Elections In February
BREAKING: Egypt interim president sets parliament elections by February, followed by presidential vote -RJJ— The Associated Press (@AP) 4 years ago
07/08/2013 5:25 PM EDT
WATCH: Morsi's Fatal Mistake
Human Rights Watch director in Egypt Heba Morayef joined Ahmed Shihab-Eldin on HuffPost Live to discuss the removal of Mohammed Morsi from power. "This wasn't a conspiracy just against Morsi. This was massive popular discontent that no single political force could have orchestrated," she says. "Morsi's fatal mistake was to not recognize the crisis of June 30 for what it was and that was a crisis of legitimacy."
Watch the full segment below.
07/08/2013 5:13 PM EDT
Constitutional Panel Within 15 Days
Decree by Egypt's interim leader says the panel to review a new constitution must be formed within 15 days #breaking— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) 1 year ago
07/08/2013 4:44 PM EDT
Reports: Two Soldiers Kidnapped
#Egypt state information service says #Morsi supporters kidnapped two army soldiers in Ain Shams http://t.co/ncAoZUPAmn— Liam Stack (@liamstack) 3 years ago
07/08/2013 4:40 PM EDT
New Favorite For PM Position
Former Finance Minister Samir Radwan emerges as favorite to be Egypt's interim prime minister: political sources #breaking— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) 1 year ago
07/08/2013 3:38 PM EDT
Brotherhood Calls For New Protests
Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood calls on people to protest on Tuesday following killings in Cairo #breaking— Reuters World (@ReutersWorld) 1 year ago
07/08/2013 3:34 PM EDT
PHOTO: Nasr City
Supporters of the ousted President Mohammed Morsi shout slogans in Nasr City, a suburb of Cairo, Egypt, Monday, July 8, 2013. (AP Photo/Nasser Shiyoukhi)
07/08/2013 3:16 PM EDT
Sharif Kouddous: Elements Of The Former Regime Are Back
Reporter Sharif Kouddous joined HuffPost Live host Ahmed Shihab-Eldin from Cairo to discuss the crisis in Egypt. "We're seeing elements of the former regime reassert themselves and trying to use this moment to establish themselves back in positions of authority," Kouddous said.
Watch the full segment below:
07/08/2013 2:43 PM EDT
Senator McCain Releases Statement On Egypt
In light of this worsening situation, it is essential for all people and parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and work together immediately to begin a transition back to an elected democratic government. I call on the Muslim Brotherhood to participate in the political process and cease its calls for an uprising against the military. I call on the Egyptian military to protect Mohamed Morsi and his millions of supporters from acts of retribution and other abuses of their rights, including the right to speak freely and demonstrate peacefully. I call on the civilian transitional government headed by President Mansour to move urgently to establish a constitutional and democratic framework that enjoys maximum popular support, that leads to successful elections as soon as possible, and that creates conditions for the resumption of U.S. foreign assistance to Egypt. In the meantime, I encourage the Obama Administration, together with the Congress, to explore creative and lawful means to cooperate with the Egyptian military on a limited basis, perhaps using Department of Defense authorities, to safeguard vital national security interests such as counterterrorism, intelligence sharing, border security, and the maintenance of regional peace.
Read the full statement here.