Video: Obama cautious on Egyptian army ultimatum

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U.S. President Barack Obama said more work lies ahead to create an inclusive Egypt that is truly representative and responsive to its people.

Obama responded to the eruption of renewed Egyptian protests from Tanzania and recognized Mursi as the democratically elected leader of Egypt. However he said the United States won’t take sides.

“Our commitment to Egypt has never been around any particular individual or party, our commitment has been to a process,” Obama said.

The U.S. president spoke cautiously about the potential for political violence, as hundreds of thousands of Egyptians took to the streets in renewed protests. He called for all sides to show restraint and work through this fragile process peacefully.

The Egyptian army gave President Mohamed Morsi an ultimatum to calm the massive protests against his rule within 48 hours, or face a military intervention.

Meanwhile, U.S. officials refrained from saying whether or not the United States would support such action.

“The details are up to the participants themselves. What we’re focused on is the broader goal of reconciliation between the different groups compromising so they can move forward with their transition and with their economy,” said State Department spokesman Patrick Ventrell.

According to Michelle Dunne, director of the Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East, the United States doesn’t have a strong strategy for dealing with these changes in Egypt.

However she said the United States has not looked favorably upon a military coup for some time, and would prefer to see Mursi compromise with other political forces.

The larger question in her view is whether or not that’s possible now.

“The brotherhood and Mursi have shown themselves very unwilling to compromise with the other political forces. I don’t know whether this military statement will now change their minds about that,” she added.

Dunne also criticized U.S. policy towards Egypt since Mursi took office for failing to engage other political forces and Egyptian civil society. This is something she said would be expected for a country undergoing democratic transformation.

Nonetheless, she said the road ahead will be a long and difficult one and advised the United States to remain engaged with Egypt.

As for Egypt itself, Dunne sees some risks in excluding Islamists from the unfolding political process.

“It would be a mistake for whoever takes control whether it’s the military or someone else to make all the decisions themselves and not take the time to seek a broad consensus,” Dunne said.

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