Pentagon: Obama to halt F-16 delivery to Egypt amid unrest

US struggling to respond to removal of Morsi, ensuing violence.

F-16 Fighter Jet 311 (R) (photo credit: REUTERS)
F-16 Fighter Jet 311 (R)
(photo credit: REUTERS)

WASHINGTON - President Barack Obama hasdecided to halt the planned delivery of four F-16 fighter jetsto Egypt, the Pentagon said on Wednesday, amid the unrest thaterupted after the military ousted Egypt's first democraticallyelected president.

The move came two weeks after Reuters reported US plans togo ahead with the delivery of the F-16s, and shows how theUnited States is struggling to respond to the removal ofPresident Mohamed Morsi and an ensuing surge in violence.

Pentagon spokesman George Little declined to specifyprecisely what triggered the reversal but acknowledged what hereferred to as the "fluid situation" on the ground.

"Given the current situation in Egypt, we do not believe itis appropriate to move forward at this time with the delivery ofF-16s," Little said, adding that Obama's decision was made withthe unanimous consent of his entire national security team.

Still, the Pentagon said it did not believe it was in thebest interests of the United States to suspend overall militaryassistance to Egypt, which totals about $1.3 billion a year.

Little said this year's Bright Star military exercise withEgypt would go ahead as planned, for example.

Washington has been treading a careful line since Morsi'souster, neither welcoming it nor denouncing it as a "coup,"saying it needs time to weigh the situation.

A US government decision to call it a coup would, by law,cut off US assistance to Egypt.

The Pentagon said the White House and the State Departmentwere still conducting a review into how to define Morsi'sremoval.

"I would caution against premature conclusions with respectto that (review) process of determining whether or not there wasa coup," Little said.

"This was a decision made about the F-16s and doesn'tnecessarily reflect what the outcome will be in that process."

Egypt's military chief, General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, calledfor mass rallies on Friday to give him a mandate to tackle theunrest.

US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel spoke with Sisi onWednesday to inform him of the decision to delay the delivery ofthe jets, which are part of America's $1.3 billion in annualmilitary aid to Egypt and are built by Lockheed Martin Corp.

They also discussed Sisi's call for rallies, Little said.