The Free Press, Mankato, MN

State, national news

July 4, 2013

U.S. officials approach tumult in Egypt with caution

(Continued)

On his other request, Obama appeared to have less success. Shortly after Obama issued his statement, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman said Morsi and 12 presidential aides had been placed under house arrest. Morsi, meanwhile, denounced his ouster as a "full coup."

In portions of a CNN interview broadcast Wednesday night, the chairman of the U.S. military's Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Martin Dempsey, said Washington has received assurances from the Egyptian military that U.S. citizens there would be protected.

As American cities were making final preparations for Fourth of July celebrations, fireworks erupted Wednesday night over Cairo's Tahrir square upon news the military had suspended the Islamist-drafted constitution and called for new elections.

The mood was less jubilant at the State Department, where officials concerned about the threat of further unrest ordered all nonessential U.S. diplomats and the families of all American Embassy personnel to leave Egypt.

Although initially encouraged by Morsi's promise to abide by Egypt's 1979 peace treaty with Israel and his role in a truce brokered between Israel and Gaza's Hamas rulers in November, the U.S. grew more skeptical about Morsi as opponents complained in louder and louder voices that his promises to enact democratic reforms were going unmet. Secretary of State John Kerry warned in April that Egypt might be backsliding in its transition to democracy, citing arrests, street violence and the government's inability to embrace its opposition.

Despite the odd optics that supporting an expulsion-by-force of a democratically elected leader would entail, the State Department appeared Wednesday to be laying the groundwork for a tacit acceptance of the military's move. The State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki refused to criticize Egypt's military over the ultimatum it gave Morsi. But she did say the U.S. was disappointed with a speech Morsi gave the previous night after Obama urged him to present plans to address the opposition's concerns.

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