WASHINGTON -- President Barack Obama urged Egypt's military yesterday to hand back control to a democratic, civilian government without delay, but stopped short of calling the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi a coup d'etat.
In a carefully worded statement, Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by the military's move to topple Morsi's government and suspend Egypt's constitution. He said he was ordering the U.S. government to assess what the military's actions meant for U.S. foreign aid to Egypt.
Under U.S. law, the government must suspend foreign aid to any nation whose elected leader is ousted in a coup. The United States provides $1.5 billion a year to Egypt in military and economic assistance that is considered a critical U.S. national security priority.
"I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsi and his supporters," Obama said.
Washington wasn't taking sides in the conflict, committing itself only to democracy and respect for the rule of law, Obama said.
Obama said he expected the military to protect the rights of Egypt's men and women to due process and peaceful assembly. He reaffirmed his call for a democratic Egypt that involves participation from secular and religious parties alike.
Egyptian military leaders have assured the Obama administration that they are not interested in long-term rule, American officials said.
The officials also said the Egyptian military pledged to take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Alexandria.