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Military ouster of Egypt's Morsi: US position goes from worse to bad (+video)

Before the Egyptian military ousted President Morsi, the US was caught between a democratically elected leader and the democratic forces seeking his removal. But it's still in a tight spot.

By Staff writer / July 3, 2013

Opponents of Egypt's Islamist President Mohammed Morsi wave national flags during a protest outside the presidential palace, in Cairo, Egypt, Wednesday.

Khalil Hamra/AP

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Washington

The ouster of Egypt’s President Mohammed Morsi by the country’s powerful military releases the United States from the delicate spot it found itself in before Wednesday’s events: caught between a democratically elected leader and the democratic forces seeking his removal.

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But the relief is minimal.

The US will still face hard questions over how to respond to a military coup in a country that is a key Middle East partner and a major recipient of US military aid.

The days ahead are likely to remain agitated and tense in Egypt, and the US will almost certainly face criticism from Mr. Morsi’s supporters, who will say the US acquiesced to the illegal removal of an elected leader who had just marked the first year of a four-year term.

The Egyptian military acted to deflect accusations that the manner in which it removed Morsi amounted to a coup. While the military suspended the Morsi-era constitution, the commander-in-chief of the Egyptian armed forces, Gen. Abdel Fatah al-Sissi, told Egyptians in a televised address Wednesday night that the chief justice of Egypt’s constitutional court – and not a military leader – would fill the presidency until new presidential elections can be held.

The new interim president is to be sworn in Thursday.

The military said it acted in the “public service” not just to end the country’s chaotic political crisis but to implement a “roadmap to democracy” that would have the support of Egypt’s political factions and foster the “reconciliation” that Morsi failed to promote, General Sissi said. Although he did not mention Morsi by name, Sissi said the president had “responded with negativity” up to the last minute to the military’s demands for a resolution of the political crisis.

The Egyptian military also sought to assure the United States, in a phone call to Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel, that it has no interest in holding onto power.

As Egypt’s turmoil reached a crescendo in recent days, the US attempted to appear neutral among the dueling parties, with both the White House and the State Department emphasizing that “we don’t take sides” and calling on all factions to “engage with each other” and find a nonviolent political solution to their differences.

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