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White House: U.S. 'strongly condemns' Egypt violence

The United States “strongly condemns” overnight violence in Egypt, a White House spokesman said Wednesday, adding that a bloody raid on supporters of ousted president Mohammed Morsi “runs directly counter” to the new interim government’s promises to transition back to democratically-elected civilian leadership.

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“The violence will only make it more difficult to move Egypt forward on a path to lasting stability and democracy and runs directly counter to the pledges of the interim government to pursue reconciliation,” said White House spokesman Josh Earnest in a briefing in Martha’s Vineyard, Mass.

Earnest said the United States has consistently urged the Egyptian military “to show restraint” and respect the rights of its people, including those in the protest camps.

“We also strongly oppose a return to a state-of-emergency law and call on the government to respect basic human rights such as freedom of peaceful assembly and due process under the law,” he said. “The world is watching what is happening in Cairo. We urge the government of Egypt and all parties in Egypt to refrain from violence and resolve their differences peacefully.”

Speaking later Wednesday during a surprise appearance at the State Department's daily briefing, Secretary of State John Kerry called the violence "deplorable" and said that the events in Egypt "run counter to the Egyptians' aspirations for peace." 

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Kerry warned that the violence would impede the transition to an inclusive civilian government and urged leaders to consider Deputy Secretary of State Bill Burns' recommendations for a resolution. 

Earnest told reporters Wednesday that talks are ongoing between Kerry, Burns, Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and their Egyptian counterparts.

But the administration has yet not laid out any concrete steps to help halt the violence, including possible changes to the $1.2 billion in annual aid that the U.S. government continues to send to Egypt.

“We are continuing to review our posture and our assistance to the Egyptians,” Earnest said.

Obama was briefed this morning on the violence – which has left at least 149 dead and over 1,400 injured – by National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Earnest said, adding that the president is “closely monitoring what’s happening” while he vacations in Massachusetts.

As the briefing was ongoing, the president was playing golf at Vineyard Golf Club in Edgartown, Mass., his third visit to the course since his vacation began Saturday.

Shawna Thomas and Ali Weinberg contributed to this report.