Washington: The US has said that it will not declare the ouster of the democratically elected president of Egypt, Mohamed Morsi, as a coup in its own national interest, allowing it to continue providing USD 1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid.
"We believe that the continued provision of assistance to Egypt, consistent with our law, is important to our goal of advancing a responsible transition to democratic governance, and is consistent with our national security interests," State Department spokesperson Jen Psaki said yesterday.
"Egypt serves as a stabilising pillar of regional peace and security, and the United States has a national security interest in a stable and successful democratic transition in Egypt, she added.
The Obama administration has been forced into difficult contortions to justify not declaring a coup d`etat, which would prompt the automatic suspension of assistance programmes under US law.
Washington fears that halting such funding could imperil programs that help to secure Israel`s border and fight weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, among other things seen as critical to US national security.
However, the law stipulates that it`s President Barack Obama and his administration`s decision on how to characterise Morsi`s July 3 overthrow.
"The law does not require us to make a formal determination - that is a review that we have undergone - as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination. So we will work with Congress to determine how best to continue assistance to Egypt in a manner that encourages Egypt`s interim government to quickly and responsibly transition back to a stable, democratic, civilian-led and inclusive government," she said.
Psaki said the US is "deeply concerned" by reports that an Egyptian court has ordered the detention of Morsi.
"I can`t speak to the specific charges, but we do believe that it is important that there be a process to work towards his release. Clearly, this process should respect the personal security of him and take into account the volatile political situation in Egypt, and that`s where our focus is," she said.
Many from both parties in US Congress sympathise with the administration`s view and the need to back a military that has safeguarded Egypt`s peace with Israel for three decades.
Still, some across the political spectrum disagree. Republicans from libertarian Sen. Rand Paul to hawkish Sen. John McCain, and Democrats such as Sen. Carl Levin, have demanded the coup law be enforced.
"My feeling is we should look and make a determination, is what took place a coup," Senator James Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said after meeting with Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns.
"In the event that it should be necessary, it would be very easy to pass a law to give a waiver," he said.
However, Psaki said it is a complex situation in Egypt. "Our review is ongoing, as is our consultation with Congress. If there are additional steps that need to be taken to ensure that we can continue our assistance consistent with the law and in a manner that also advances US national security interests, we will consider those. So it`s ongoing," she said.
"We do not anticipate that we are going to make an evaluation here. That`s not what I`m suggesting, related to a coup or not. But we`re continuing to review our relationship as it relates to aid with Egypt, and that`s ongoing," Psaki said.