Egypt neither enemy nor ally - US

Thu, Sep 13, 2012, 01:00

The United States does not consider Egypt's Islamist-led government an ally or an enemy, US president Barack Obama said in a television interview.

"I don't think that we would consider them an ally, but we don't consider them an enemy," Mr Obama told Telemundo, a Spanish-language network, after mobs of demonstrators angry over a film they consider blasphemous to Islam assaulted the US embassy in Cairo.

He said the newly formed Egyptian government, which was democratically elected, is trying "to find its way."

If government officials take actions showing "they're not taking responsibility," then it would "be a real big problem," the president said in the interview, which aired in full tonight.

The attack on the embassy in Cairo coincided with attacks on a US consulate in the Libyan city of Benghazi that led to the killing of four US diplomats, including the US ambassador.

Mr Obama's comments reflected US wariness over Egypt's new Islamist president, Mohamed Morsi - who took office in June after the country's first free elections - in the aftermath of the Cairo embassy assault.

Later tonight, the Obama administration attempted to clarify the president's comments on the US's relationship with Egypt.

"'Ally' is a legal term of art," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters travelling with Mr Obama in Colorado.

"The president, in diplomatic and legal terms, was speaking correctly, that we do not have an alliance treaty with Egypt," he added.

The United States was a close ally of Egypt under ousted autocratic president Hosni Mubarak and gives $1.3 billion in military aid a year to Egypt plus other assistance.

Mr Obama ultimately called for Mubarak to step down as he faced mass protests in early 2011. But the US president was criticized for taking too long to assert American influence.

Tonight, the White House said Mr Obama had spoken with the presidents of Egypt and Libya to discuss the violence against US diplomatic compounds.

Mr Obama, in his call to Mr Morsi, said Egypt "must cooperate with the United States in securing US diplomatic facilities and personnel," the White House said.