Obama discusses 'fluid' Egyptian situation with national security team
WASHINGTON (CNN) — With developments in Egypt looming over his weekend trip to Camp David, President Barack Obama held a conference call with his national security team Saturday as the administration deals with what it calls "the very fluid situation."
The meeting came on a day of growing leadership questions in Egypt, as Mohamed ElBaredei for hours was reported to be on the brink of becoming Egypt's interim prime minister, but those reports were later denied.
As the administration continued its push for the Egyptian military to return a democratically-elected government, the White House said President Obama "reiterated that the United States is not aligned with, and does not support, any particular Egyptian political party or group ... the United States categorically rejects the false claims propagated by some in Egypt that we are working with specific political parties or movements to dictate how Egypt's transition should proceed."
A statement after the meeting said Obama "expressed concern over the continued political polarization" and violence. The White House statement said, "The future path of Egypt can only be determined by the Egyptian people. During this transitional period, we call on all Egyptians to come together in an inclusive process that allows for the participation of all groups and political parties. Throughout that process, the United States will continue to engage the Egyptian people in a spirit of partnership, consistent with our longstanding friendship and shared interests -- including our interest in a transition to sustainable democracy."
The Obama administration again criticized the ongoing violence and urged leaders there to condemn it.
"The United States is deeply troubled by the violence across Egypt. We strongly condemn any and all incitement to violence or attempts to divide and provoke, rather than unite, all Egyptians. The United States strongly condemns the violence by all parties and urges calm," Secretary of State John Kerry said in a statement Saturday evening.
"At the same time, we firmly reject the unfounded and false claims by some in Egypt that the United States supports the Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood or any specific Egyptian political party or movement. The United States has always been and remains committed to the democratic process, not to any party or personality," Kerry's statement said.
"We want Egyptians to make their democracy work for the good of all Egyptians. At this sensitive moment, we call on all Egyptian leaders to condemn the use of force and prevent further violence among their supporters and we urge all those demonstrating to do so peacefully."
Administration officials made more calls to leaders in Egypt and in key countries the region. The State Department, in part blunting public relations issues over Kerry's working vacation in Nantucket, Massachusetts, noted in a statement that Kerry "over the days since the unrest in Egypt intensified ... has been in constant contact with the national security team, regional partners, and his counterparts."
Kerry has been in hourly touch with U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson, the State Department said.
The State Department said Kerry's calls in the last two days included one to ElBaradei. Other calls by him included ones to the Qatari, Emirati, Saudi and Turkish foreign ministers and Omani Sultan Qaboos bin Said.
The State Department statement said his calls urged trying to end the violence, and "all parties -- the Muslim Brotherhood, opposition, and military -- to ensure that those expressing their views do so peacefully." Kerry, the statement said, "stressed that the United States wants to see Egypt's civilian transition succeed, and that the United States will do all it can to help encourage that effort."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel also spoke three times in the last two days with Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel-Fatah El-Sisi. The Pentagon said Hagel "emphasized the need for a peaceful civilian transition in Egypt. He also noted the importance of security for the Egyptian people, Egypt's neighbors, and the region."