By Mike Lillis - 09/13/12 10:49 PM EDT
House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (Calif.) called Thursday for continued U.S. aid to Egypt, but stopped short of labeling the Muslim nation an ally.
Some conservative lawmakers are pushing to halt aid to Egypt in the wake of this week's volatile protests at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo. But Pelosi warned that a destabilized Egypt would lead to greater unrest in the region, threatening the national security of Israel and the United States alike.
"It is a force in the Middle East; it is a country with whom we must have a good relationship; it's important, again, for our national security interests, and part of our national security interests involve the security of Israel," Pelosi said.
"But even if Israel did not exist, the fact is that we really do have to help Egypt go forward," she added. "I don't know about the word 'ally' — we'll see — but the fact is that we have an interest in Egypt's success, and let's hope that we can do that as allies."
The violence was apparently spawned by a crude, Web-based video critical of Islam and the Prophet Muhammad that originated in the United States.
The unrest has thrust foreign affairs into the presidential contest, putting intense pressure on President Obama to manage the crisis even as GOP nominee Mitt Romney has hammered the administration's response.
"It's disgraceful that the Obama administration's first response was not to condemn attacks on our diplomatic missions, but to sympathize with those who waged the attacks," Romney said in a statement issued Tuesday night, before the news of Stevens's death had been made public.
Pelosi called Romney's attacks on Obama "inappropriate," but focused more attention on the bipartisan outpouring of support for the victims' families.
"All members of Congress stand united in condemning this brazen attack," Pelosi said.
Some lawmakers have noted a sharp difference in the response of the Libyan and Egyptian governments, applauding Libya's cooperation while hammering Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi for his failure to condemn the attacks quickly.
"It is very troubling, quite frankly unacceptable, that the leader of a country that receives as much aid as Egypt receives from us would take so long to express any sort of outrage or condemnation on what’s occurred," Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) said Thursday.
Speaking from Brussels on Thursday, Morsi finally went after the protesters, condemning both the derogatory video and the violent reaction to it.
"I speak on behalf of the Egyptian people when I say defaming Prophet Muhammad is unacceptable," Morsi said, adding that, "We strongly condemn and reject the killing of the American ambassador in Libya. The prophet taught us to respect all human life."
A number of House Republicans this week proposed to end U.S. aid to Libya and Egypt as part of the continuing resolution that passed the House Thursday.
Hours before that vote, Pelosi warned that such a defunding would further destabilize an already shaky Middle East.
"I believe that there has been a consensus that we cannot leave Egypt by the by," Pelosi said. "So if they're suggesting that we cut off assistance to Egypt ... I don't agree with that.
"Its economic success is important to the stability of the country, and that's important to the stability of the region and ... global peace," she said.