WASHINGTON (AP) — Egyptian military leaders have assured the Obama administration that they are not interested in long-term rule following their toppling of President Mohammed Morsi and have appointed a government of civilian technocrats to temporarily run the country in an apparent bid to forestall potential U.S. sanctions, American officials said Wednesday.
U.S. law requires the administration to suspend its $1.5 billion in annual military and economic assistance to Egypt — which is deemed a critical U.S. national security priority — if the ouster is determined to have been a coup d'etat.
Under the law, the unconstitutional ouster of a democratically elected government by a country's armed forces would trigger an aid cutoff.
But the administration can take time to make that legal determination, and officials said they believed Egypt's military was trying to take steps to keep such a finding from being reached.
In conversations between senior Egyptian army officers and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, senior Egyptian army officers pledged to put a civilian government in place quickly, if not immediately, after removing Morsi from power, the U.S. officials said.
The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak by name about the private conversations that occurred over the past week. The officials also said the Egyptian military pledged to take steps to ensure the safety of Americans in Egypt, including the embassy in Cairo and the consulate in Alexandria.
One official said the State Department was ordering all nonessential U.S. diplomats and the families of all American embassy personnel to leave Egypt.
The White House, State Department and Pentagon declined to comment on what actions the administration is considering in response to the ouster of Morsi, Egypt's first-ever democratically elected president, who had been in power for only a year, along with the suspension of the Islamist-backed constitution and call for early elections.