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U.S. lawmakers urge calm, cautious approach to Egypt

Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi march from Raba El-Adwyia square to the Republican Guards headquarters where they bel
Supporters of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi march from Raba El-Adwyia square to the Republican Guards headquarters where they bel

(Reuters) - The United States is unlikely to pull its $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt any time soon, U.S. lawmakers said on Sunday, despite the Egyptian military takeover of the government in what the opposition has called a coup.

"We should continue to support the military, the one stabilizing force in Egypt that I think can temper down the political feuding," U.S. Representative Mike Rogers said on CNN's "State of the Union."

Rogers, the Republican chairman of the House of Representatives Intelligence Committee, called instead on Washington to "help a process that will allow for more multiple factions of parties and beliefs to participate."

Other lawmakers agreed Washington should use caution in responding to the turmoil in Egypt as it tries to transition to a democratic government.

While U.S. law calls for aid to be suspended if a country's military ousts a democratically elected leader, the U.S. lawmakers appeared reluctant to do so.

Egypt's powerful military ousted elected President Mohamed Mursi last week after massive street protests turned violent, blaming Mursi's Islamist Muslim Brotherhood for the clashes.

The Brotherhood, which called for additional protests on Sunday, has called Mursi's ouster a coup and pledged to keep protesting until he is restored.

"What we should be doing right now is urging calmness, and asking the Muslim Brotherhood to act with some degree of responsibility as it relates to what is happening," Senator Bob Corker, the senior Republican on the Foreign Relations Committee, told "Fox News Sunday."

Neither Corker nor Senator Jack Reed, a Democrat, agreed with a recent statement by Republican colleague John McCain that the United States should suspend aid.

Corker said there would be "plenty of time to assess the aid issue" and the focus should be on the peaceful transition to a democratic government.

Reed said cutting off aid would do nothing to accelerate that process.

"We have to be very careful of suspending aid or cutting it off," he said on "Fox News Sunday." "What we have to do is insist that the military have a very rapid, very clear timeline and pathway to democratic elections."

That should not mean the Muslim Brotherhood be excluded from the process, said New Jersey Democrat Robert Menendez, Senate Foreign Relations Chairman, on NBC's "Meet the Press."

"Egypt for all includes in my mind participation from the Muslim Brotherhood," he said.

Egypt's ambassador to Washington, meanwhile, tried to convince vital U.S. ally and sponsor that the military takeover wasn't a coup but fulfilled the will of the people.

Speaking on ABC's "This week," Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik, rejected the idea that the overthrow of Mursi represented a coup.

"What has happened is that the people of Egypt have decided that President Mursi did not act, during his year in office, as president for all Egyptians," he said. "In the last two months you have had a massive, a massive reaction from the Egyptian people."

He said the focus now would be on holding new elections as soon as possible, but did not give a time frame.

The country's political transition has already stumbled as the choice of liberal politician Mohamed ElBaradel as interim prime minister sparked objections from the Muslim Brotherhood.

"I'm not sure what the United States can do other than being a calming voice," Corker said.

(Reporting by Toni Clarke and Patrick Temple-West in Washington; writing by Doina Chiacu; Editing by David Storey)

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