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White House: Chaos is Alternative to Democratic Process in Egypt

A supporter of Egypt's former President Hosni Mubarak holds a defaced picture of U.S. ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson (bottom) and U.S. President Barack Obama (top) as others shout slogans against members of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporters of ousted Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi, before Mubarak's trial in Cairo, July 6, 2013.
The United States continues to urge restraint by the military, and all parties and groups in Egypt, saying the alternative to an inclusive and democratic process after President Mohamed Morsi's ouster is chaos.

Two issues dominated Wednesday's White House news briefing: arrest orders issued for top Egyptian Muslim Brotherhood leaders, and the determination to be made about U.S. assistance to Egypt.

Decades-old U.S. law requires that non-humanitarian aid be suspended to a country where a military coup has occurred. Egypt currently receives about $1.5 billion in military and economic aid.

The Obama administration refuses to attach any timeline to the process of determining whether the ouster of President Morsi was a coup.

Press secretary Jay Carney said an immediate aid cutoff would not be in U.S. interests, adding there is an ongoing evaluation of what happened in Egypt and of "responsibilities under the law."

There will be no rush to a decision, he said.

"This is not a matter for political back and forth or five day deadlines alone, it is a matter for serious and cautious implementation of policy that is in the best interests of the United States and the best interests of the American people and, because that is our policy objective, in the best interests long term of the Egyptian people," said Carney.

Carney said the U.S. is evaluating how Egyptian authorities "are responding to and handling the current situation," and he described what the U.S. - with help from partners and allies - is communicating to Egyptians.

"The alternative is chaos, the alternative is a failure of Egypt to reach its enormous potential, the alternative is sustained disappointment among the Egyptian people about the limitations placed on their own futures," he said.

The White House acknowledged there are major concerns about potential negative regional impacts from "a continued violent crisis in Egypt," adding that "reconciliation is the goal and compromise is the means to achieving the goal."

Carney also defended the work of the U.S. ambassador to Egypt, Anne Patterson, who became a focus of anti-U.S. criticism in street demonstrations.

Obama's spokesman called Patterson a "supremely skilled diplomat" who "absolutely" has the president's confidence.

He also rejected the notion that by engaging with the Morsi government, Patterson was somehow "picking sides," adding that as she engaged with the Morsi government, she will engage with Egypt's next democratically-elected civilian government.