Mohamed Abd El Ghany / Reuters
A supporter of Mohammed Morsi carries a poster of the deposed Egyptian president as people move away from tear gas fired by riot police during clashes near the Sixth of October Bridge in central Cairo in this July 15 file photo.
The U.S. government will not determine formally whether Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi was removed from power in a coup on July 3 because "it is not in our national interest to make such a determination," a senior administration official said Thursday.
"Egypt serves as a stabilizing pillar of regional peace and security and the United States has a national security interest in a stable and successful democratic transition in Egypt," the senior official said.
The United States provides $1.5 billion in military and economic aid to Egypt each year. If it were determined a coup took place, law stipulates the assistance should stop.
"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. The law does not require us to make a formal determination as to whether a coup took place, and it is not in our national interest to make such a determination," the official said.
Deputy Secretary Bill Burns briefed the leadership of both the Senate and the House on Egypt Thursday evening. The official said the administration will continue to "work with the 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 that addresses the needs and respects the rights and freedoms of all its people."
Meanwhile, Egypt’s military warned that it was prepared to use force to counter what it called "violence and black terrorism" as protests over Morsi's ouster continued.
A statement headlined “the last chance” said the commander of the armed forces was going to change strategy in order to guarantee the “security and stability of this great nation.”
"We confirm that the Egyptian Armed Forces is the army for all the people and of all the people and would never raise its weapons in the face of its people, but [it would raise its weapons] in the face of violence and black terrorism [that] has no religion or country," the statement added.
It said the new approach would begin after Friday, when rival protests in support of the military and of Morsi are due to be held.
The statement gave protesters 48 hours to "retreat" and "get in line with the rest of the nation" so the country can prepare for the future.
Close to 200 people have died in violence triggered by Morsi's ouster by the military on July 3, Reuters reported.
Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawy, head of the interim cabinet, said there were escalating attacks on government institutions by increasingly well-armed protesters.
"The presence of weapons, intimidation, fear - this causes concern, especially when there are calls for many to come out tomorrow from different sides," he told a news conference, according to Reuters.
Farid Ismail, a senior politician with Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood movement, accused the security services of readying militias to attack Morsi supporters.
He claimed that Army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi was trying to drag Egypt into civil war.
"His definition of terrorism is anyone who disagrees with him," Ismail told Reuters. "We are moving forward in complete peacefulness, going forward to confront this coup."
In a speech on Wednesday, Sisi pointed to the deepening confrontation between the Brotherhood and the military establishment, which has reasserted its role at the heart of government even as it says it aims to steer clear of politics.
The interim government installed after Morsi was ousted plans to introduce a new constitution, then hold fresh elections.
The Brotherhood accuses the army of ejecting a democratically elected leader in a long-planned coup, while its opponents say the army responded to the will of the people after days of mass protests against Morsi.
Reuters contributed to this report.
First published July 25 2013, 4:56 PM