U.S. Urges Morsi to Call Early Elections, Warns Military - KiiiTV.com South Texas, Corpus Christi, Coastal Bend

Officials: U.S. Urges Morsi to Call Early Elections, Warns Military Against Coup

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(CNN) - The Obama administration is urging Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi to call early elections and has warned the Egyptian military that it risks losing U.S. aid if it carries out a military coup amid the political crisis, senior administration officials tell CNN.

At the same time, the officials stopped short of saying Morsi should step down immediately.

"We are saying to him, 'figure out a way to go for new elections,'" one senior official said Tuesday. "That may be the only way that this confrontation can be resolved."

But the White House disputed the characterization that the administration was "urging" Morsi to call early elections.

"President (Barack) Obama has encouraged President Morsi to take steps to show that he is responsive to the concerns of the Egyptian people and underscored that the current crisis can only be resolved through a political process. As the president has made clear since the revolution, only Egyptians can make the decisions that will determine their future," National Security Council spokeswoman Bernadette Meehan said.

The other officials said in multiple conversations with Morsi and his aides U.S. Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson and other senior State Department officials have explained that the demands the Egyptian people are making on the street are similar to the ones both Washington and allies have been urging Egypt to take for weeks.

"We are trying to get President Morsi to appoint a new prime minister, a new Cabinet, and get rid of the prosecutor general," one senior official said. "This is the kind of outreach he needs to do to demonstrate to the opposition that he is governing all Egyptians. So far he hasn't done anything to show that."

Obama reiterated in a phone call to Morsi on Monday that the Egyptian leader must take action, the officials said.

Although the officials said nothing in the Egyptian constitution gives Morsi the authority to call for new elections, they say it may be the only way to end the political crisis that has engulfed Egypt.

Officials have also warned the Egyptian military that a military coup would trigger U.S. legislation cutting off American aid, which totals about $1.5 billion annually.

"There are specific consequences," the senior official said. "As much as we appreciate their statement that they intend to protect the Egyptian people, they need to be careful about how they inject themselves into the situation. We are telling them that playing a role with their ultimatum to get the two sides together is completely appropriate, but anything that looks like a military takeover is walking a very thin line."

Conversations with the opposition have basically reiterated the U.S. line to the government and military, the officials said.

The United States has been concerned about the perception that the Obama administration was in support of Morsi, but officials hoped the deliberately-muted U.S. response to the Egyptian military's statement would signal the United States does not support the president's non-democratic behavior.

"We really have been pushing him since his November 23 constitutional fiasco," another official said.

One senior official said the United States doesn't know how the political crisis will end, and doesn't know the opposition's bottom line.

"We aren't sure they know their bottom line," the official added.

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