The chairman of the Senate Committee on Armed Services said Wednesday that the Egyptian military's ouster of Islamist President Mohammad Morsi is a "coup" that should trigger suspension of aid to Egypt.
"I believe it is a coup, and I believe the aid should be suspended," Sen. Carl M. Levin said at the Carnegie Endowment in Washington, noting that U.S. law states that aid must be halted if a democratically elected president is deposed in a coup or by military decree.
The Michigan Democrat's remarks put him at odds with the White House, which has refrained from describing the Egyptian military's move as a coup.
White House officials have said they would assess the situation, adding that an immediate suspension of U.S. aid would not be helpful.
"We will take our time and the time necessary to make the determinations regarding what happened last week in the — in the change of leadership, the removal of President Morsi from power," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters Wednesday.
"But what I've said yesterday and I said the day before that remains true today, which is that we do not believe it is in the best interests of the United States to make immediate changes to our assistance programs."
Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel has spoken to his Egyptian counterpart numerous times since Mr. Morsi' deposal last Wednesday — four times over the weekend, once on Monday and another time Tuesday afternoon.
"The U.S. military, the Department of the Defense and the Egyptian military have long-standing ties. And this has obviously been a turbulent period," Pentagon Press Secretary George Little said said. "We believe it's appropriate to use this important channel that we have with the Egyptians to convey our insights, thoughts and our views on the situation that's occurring in Egypt."
"We think that in a crisis like this, it makes sense to engage," he said.
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