Kerry: Army’s ouster of Egypt’s president was not a military takeover

A supporter of Egypt's ousted President Mohammed Morsi covers his mouth with a sticker that reads "Military Coup" near the Rabaah al-Adawiya mosque in Cairo. Hassan Ammar / AP

Secretary of State John Kerry has said the Egyptian army did not take over when it ousted the country's first democratically elected president, but was instead “restoring democracy.”

The military deposed Islamist leader Mohammed Morsi on July 3, after millions took the streets to protest about his government.

His supporters in the Muslim Brotherhood movement – and the prime minister of NATO-member Turkey – regard the army's actions as a military coup.

But speaking with Pakistani TV station Thursday, Kerry said the army “did not take over.”

"The military was asked to intervene by millions and millions of people, all of whom were afraid of a descendance into chaos, into violence," he told GEO TV. 

"And the military did not take over, to the best of our judgment so - so far," he added.

Egypt gets $1.3 billion a year in military aid from the U.S., but if Morsi's ouster was ruled to be a "coup" this would trigger a cutoff of support -- a move that American officials say would further destabilize the country.

Gehad El Haddad, a Muslim Brotherhood spokesman, said he had not expected any help from the U.S. and believed Washington was "complicit in the military coup" and noted American support for ousted strongman Hosni Mubarak's "dictatorship.”

“Is it the job of the army to restore democracy? Does Secretary Kerry accept Defense Secretary Hagel to step in and remove Obama if large protests take place in America? Will the U.S. army freeze the constitution and dismantle congress and senate? Can they appoint a president that they solely choose?” he said.

“Such rhetoric is very alarming, the American people should stand against an administration that is corrupting their values in supporting tyranny and dictatorship," he added.

Last week the Obama administration said it was not legally required to determine whether Egypt's military had engineered a coup or not.

Kerry’s speech came as the Egyptian interior ministry warned Morsi's supporters to clear out of the protest camps they have set up in the capital Cairo, promising a safe exit if they left without a fight.

The appeal, made by Interior Ministry spokesman Hany Abdel Latif on state television, followed the government's declaration on Wednesday it was ready to take action to end the protests in the area of Rabaa al-Adawiya in eastern Cairo and al-Nahda Square south of the capital. 

Latif said that protesters who wanted to leave peacefully, they would allowed to do so. No deadline was set.

"There is no specified date. We will continue to study the situation on the ground," he told Reuters.

But the protesters remained defiant and prepared for the worst.

"We are ready. We are ready to die for legitimacy. An attack can happen at any moment," said Mohamed Saqr, a Brotherhood activist guarding an entrance to the encampment at a mosque in northeast Cairo.

Reuters contributed to this report.