By Julian Pecquet - 07/01/13 03:19 PM EDT
President Obama on Monday declined to call for the resignation of embattled Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi despite the massive protests calling for his ouster.
Obama said the White House is "concerned" about the outbreak of violence in Egypt and is monitoring the situation closely. But the president said Morsi's election was “legitimate” and called on all parties in Egypt to return to the negotiating table.
“Our position has always been, it's not our job to choose who Egypt's leaders are,” Obama told reporters in Tanzania. “When I took a position that it was time for Egypt to transition [away from Hosni Mubarak in 2011], it was based on the fact that Egypt had not had democratic government for decades, if ever. And that's what the people were calling for.”
Obama said U.S. policy towards Egypt — including whether to continue providing $1.5 billion in annual aid — wouldn't change based on "counting the number of heads in a protest march.”
“We're going to continue to work with all parties inside of Egypt to try to channel this through legal, legitimate processes,” Obama said, while calling on all parties to “step back from maximalist positions.”
Obama said his first priority was the safety of U.S. diplomats and other Americans in Egypt.
The president said he was relieved that the protests, despite causing at least seven deaths, haven't given way to the kinds of violence seen two years ago during the overthrow of Mubarak.
And while he said the U.S. is committed to dealing with "a democratically elected government" in Egypt, Obama stressed that the Morsi government had “more work to be done to create the conditions in which everybody feels their voices are heard and the government is responsive and truly representative.”
“The way we make decisions about assistance to Egypt is based on, are they in fact following rule of law, and democratic procedures?” Obama said. “We do make decisions based on whether or not a government is listening to the opposition, maintaining a free press, maintaining freedom of assembly, not using violence and intimidation, conducting fair and free elections. And those are the kinds of things we're examining, and we press the Egyptian government very hard on those issues.”
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