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Egypt violence: US hardens its tone, but is criticized as too soft (+video)

Secretary of State John Kerry condemned the crackdown by Egypt's military but announced no sanctions, leaving critics to suggest US policy toward a key Mideast partner is ineffectual.

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“Our focus is on getting back to a sustainable path to democracy,” Ms. Psaki said.

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The US response echoed that of other world powers, including the European Union, which last week joined the US on a diplomatic mission to Cairo to dissuade Egyptian authorities from resorting to violence in the standoff with Morsi supporters. Egypt’s military rulers rebuffed the international efforts at reconciliation, deeming them a “failure.”

EU officials condemned Wednesday’s violence and urged restraint. “The reports of deaths and injuries are extremely worrying,” said Michael Mann, a spokesman for EU foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton. “We reiterate that violence won’t lead to any solution and we urge the Egyptian authorities to proceed with utmost restraint.”

But many human rights organizations found the US position wanting, and urged the Obama administration to shift course and to underscore its condemnation of Egypt’s violence by suspending aid.

“The US government should suspend military aid to Egypt immediately, to reinforce the White House’s statement condemning the violence against protesters, and show that there are consequences for the Egyptian military’s unbridled violence against its own people,” said Daniel Calingaert, executive vice president at Freedom House, a Washington-based watchdog of freedom and human rights worldwide.

The US should have suspended aid “long ago due to ongoing violations,” Mr. Calingaert added. Still, “doing so now would convey to the Egyptian people, and the world, that the US government does not condone this slaughter,” he said.

Another rights organization, Human Rights First, said the US should signal a get-tough shift in its Egypt policy “by immediately suspending military assistance to Egypt and making a clear protest about today’s actions by the security forces.”

The New York-based organization also warned that a weak response by the US to Egypt’s repressive acts could suggest to other regimes in the region facing protests that they risk little by resorting to violence.

“Perceived US passivity in the face of the Egyptian government’s crackdown will make it easier for other US allies, like Bahrain, to use similar tactics against their own protest movements, thereby escalating conflicts throughout the region,” said Human Rights First international policy adviser Neil Hicks. “It also undermines US credibility in its calls for President Assad and the Syrian regime to end its violent assault on civilians seen as supportive of the US-backed Syrian opposition.”

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