The United States on Monday condemned violence in Egypt, and urged the military to use maximum restraint. The U.S. is urging Egyptians to come together to overcome political divisions, and to remain engaged in the political process.
White House spokesman Jay Carney said the United States remains deeply concerned by increasing violence across Egypt and a "dangerous level of political polarization."
His remarks came amid reports Monday of the worst incident of violence since President Mohamed Morsi's ouster last week by Egypt's military.
Soldiers and police clashed with Muslim Brotherhood supporters outside a Republican Guard building in Cairo. At least 51 people were killed, many more were injured.
Carney expressed condolences for those killed and wounded. He urged Egypt's military to exercise restraint, and specifically condemned calls to violence by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Saying Egypt's "stability and democratic political order are at stake," Carney said Egypt "will not emerge from this crisis unless its people come together to find a non-violent and inclusive path forward."
"The United States is not aligned with nor is it supporting any particular political party or group. We remain actively engaged with all sides, and we are committed to supporting the Egyptian people as they seek to salvage their nascent democracy," he said.
At the State Department, spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that U.S. contacts with all parties in Egypt include the Muslim Brotherhood and Freedom and Justice Party, but she would provide no further details of conversations.
Psaki was on the defensive as she responded to reporters asking why the Muslim Brotherhood should heed U.S. calls to engage in the political process after President Morsi's ouster.
"A democratic process is not just about casting your ballot. There are other factors in terms of - in addition to that, including how somebody behaves and how they govern. And this is a case where millions of people have spoken in the country. We are not judging that, but again, that's a real factor here," she said.
Much of Monday's White House news briefing was devoted to questions about a critical decision facing President Obama and the U.S. Congress - whether to suspend $1.3 billion in military aid to Egypt.
U.S. law requires suspension of aid if it is determined a democratically elected government has been overthrown.
Carney said the Obama administration does not believe any precipitous suspension of aid would be in the interests of the United States, but he said high-level consultations are continuing.
"We think, not just I, it would not be in the best interests of the United States to do that. We are reviewing our obligations under the law and we will be consulting with Congress about the way forward with regards specifically to the aid package that we provide," he said.
Eric Trager of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy says President Obama and U.S. policy face some tough challenges in the current situation in Egypt.
"The challenge for doing policy in this environment is that the Muslim Brotherhood is not going to be willing to accept any scenario in which Morsi is not re-instated as president because they view his ouster as something that was stolen from them. At the same time, the military by removing Morsi I think understands very well that is has no choice but to launch a full-out assault on the Brotherhood. In that kind of situation where both sides are really digging their heals in and have absolutes that are mutually exclusive, it is very hard for the United States to exert leverage with either party," he said.
White House spokesman Carney said Monday a transitional period in Egypt must be "defined by reconciliation rather than reprisals or rejection of the political process."
The U.S. called on Egypt's military to avoid arrests targeting specific groups or movements, and avoid restrictions on the media, and urged political parties and movements to remain engaged in dialogue.