egypt Republican Guards stand in line 370.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
CAIRO - Egypt avoided a possible civil war this month, US Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday, making it hard for Washington to conclude that the overthrow of Islamist President Mohamed Morsi was a military coup.
The armed forces deposed the elected leader on July 3 after huge street protests against his rule, clearing the way for the installment this week of a new interim cabinet charged with restoring civilian government and reviving the troubled economy.
Thousands of Morsi's supporters demonstrated outside the prime minister's office and marched through Cairo on Wednesday to protest against the military-backed administration and show that they had no intention of bowing to army dictates.
Crisis in Egypt, which straddles the vital Suez Canal, has alarmed allies in the West. Washington would be forced to cut off aid to Cairo, including some $1.3 billion that goes to the military, if it determined Morsi had been removed by a coup.
"On the issue of a coup, this is obviously an extremely complex and very difficult situation," Kerry told reporters during a visit to Jordan, where he held talks with Arab officials, adding that Washington would not "rush to judgment".
"What complicates it, obviously, is that you had (an) extraordinary situation in Egypt of life and death, of the potential of civil war and enormous violence, and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly."
His comments underscored grave US concerns about the Arab world's most populous state and suggested that President Barack Obama was in no hurry to pull the plug on the aid program.
European Union foreign policy chief Catherine Ashton became the latest senior international figure to visit Egypt's interim rulers and, unlike a US envoy who came two days ago, she also met senior figures in Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.
However, Brotherhood leader Amr Darrag said the Europeans had not put forward any plan to resolve the crisis.
Thousands of Brotherhood supporters are staging a vigil in a square in northeast Cairo, vowing not to move until the restoration of Morsi, Egypt's first freely elected president. He has been held at an undisclosed location since his downfall.
A Cairo prosecutor on Wednesday ordered the imprisonment of 70 Morsi backers for 15 days as a precaution pending investigations over street clashes that killed seven earlier in the week, state news agency MENA reported.
They are accused, among other crimes, of rioting, blocking a city center road bridge and targeting policemen with firearms.
Wednesday's protests were mostly peaceful, although there were scuffles when a crowd marched through the city center and along the Nile riverbank, held back by riot police as they approached Tahrir Square, focus for anti-Morsi protests.