Middle East/North Africa

State Dept.: ‘We haven’t taken sides’ in Egypt

The Obama administration on Wednesday said it would not take sides in the standoff between Egypt’s military and Muslim Brotherhood President Mohamed Morsi.

“I think I’ve been very clear to the point where you’re probably tired of me saying that we haven’t taken sides and don’t plan to take sides here,” said State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

{mosads}Psaki declined to characterize the military’s moves as a coup, but her comments at a State press conference came before reports that military leaders had ousted Morsi and suspended the constitution.

Psaki said only that developments were “extremely tense and fast-moving.”

She also dismissed comparisons between the administration’s handling of the current crisis and its response to the fall of President Hosni Mubarak two years ago.

“I don’t want to compare now to two years ago,” Psaki said. “Obviously, we’re very concerned about the situation on the ground, and we were concerned, of course, naturally, two years ago, but we’re taking this day by day. 

“Every situation is different,” she added.

The military had given the Muslim Brotherhood and its opponents 48 hours to resolve their differences as millions of protesters took to the streets over the past few days, calling for Morsi to step down.

Morsi rejected those demands and called for a consensus government late Tuesday.

Psaki, though, was sharply critical of Morsi’s defiant speech.

“We felt there was an absence of significant, specific steps laid out in President Morsi’s speech,” Psaki said. “We had said that he must do more to be truly responsive … to the justified concerns expressed by the Egyptian people, and unfortunately that was not a part of what he talked about in his speech.”

Calling the events a coup would automatically trigger an end to the $1.3 billion in U.S. military aid to the country and sharply curtail U.S. influence in the Arab world’s most populous country. 

Morsi’s supporters by contrast have had no hesitation in calling the events in Egypt a coup.

“As I write these lines I am fully aware that these may be the last lines I get to post on this page,” his senior foreign policy adviser, Essam el-Haddad, wrote in an open letter Wednesday. “For the sake of Egypt and for historical accuracy, let’s call what is happening by its real name: Military coup.”

This story was updated at 3:20 p.m.

Please send tips and comments to Julian Pecquet: jpecquet@thehill.com

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