Officials: U.S. urges Morsy to call early elections; warns military against coup

CNN
Tuesday, July 2, 2013 - 8:00pm

 The Obama administration is urging Egyptian President Mohammed Morsy to call early elections and has warned the Egyptian military that it risks losing U.S. aid if it carries out a military coup amid the political crisis, senior administration officials tell CNN.

At the same time, the officials stopped short of saying Morsy should step down immediately.

"We are saying to him, 'Figure out a way to go for new elections,'" one senior official said Tuesday. "That may be the only way that this confrontation can be resolved. "

In multiple conversations with Morsy and his aides, the officials said, U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson and other senior State Department officials have explained that the demands the Egyptian people are making on the street are similar to the ones both Washington and allies have been urging Egypt to take for weeks.

"We are trying to get President Morsy to appoint a new prime minister, a new Cabinet, and get rid of the prosecutor general," one senior official said. "This is the kind of outreach he needs to do to demonstrate to the opposition that he is governing all Egyptians. So far he hasn't done anything to show that. "

President Barack Obama reiterated that Morsy must take action in his phone call to the Egyptian leader on Monday, the officials said.

Although the officials said nothing in the Egyptian constitution gives Morsy the authority to call for new elections, they say it may be the only way to end the political crisis that has engulfed Egypt.

Officials have also warned the Egyptian military that a military coup would trigger U.S. legislation cutting off all U.S. aid, which totals about $1.5 billion per year.

"There are specific consequences," the senior official said. "As much as we appreciate their statement that they intend to protect the Egyptian people, they need to be careful about how they inject themselves into the situation. We are telling them that playing a role with their ultimatum to get the two sides together is completely appropriate, but anything that looks like a military takeover is walking a very thin line."

Conversations with the opposition have basically reiterated the U.S. line to the government and military, the officials said.

The United States has been concerned about the perception that the Obama administration was in support of Morsy, but officials hoped the deliberately-muted U.S. response to the Egyptian military's statement would signal the United States does not support the president's non-democratic behavior.

"We really have been pushing him since his November 23 constitutional fiasco," another official said.

One senior official said the United States doesn't know how the political crisis will end, and doesn't know the opposition's bottom line.

"We aren't sure they know their bottom line," the official added.

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