US still planning to send F16 jets to Egypt
The announcement came as the military pledged to crack down jihadist activity in Sinai near the border with Israel.
Washington officials say they are going ahead with the provision of four F16 fighter aircraft under an aid deal agreed in 2010. The decision appeared to answer to a debate within the Obama administration about whether to designate the military’s removal of President Mohammed Morsi and his Muslim Brotherhood government a “coup”.
If it was officially deemed a “military coup” all military aid would have to stop under US law. At a press conference, the White House spokesman did not make a definitive ruling but said: “We do not believe it is in the best interests of the United States to make immediate changes to our assistance programmes.”
Earlier, the state department spokesman went further.
“It’s clear that the Egyptian people have spoken,” she said. “There’s an interim government in place. This is leading the path to democracy. We are hopeful.”
She also seemed to back the military’s view that Mr Morsi had lost legitimacy.
“It wasn’t a democratic rule,” she said. “That’s the whole point.”
Washington has been split on its attitudes both to Mr Morsi’s government and its dismantling by the army, with some Republicans insisting it was a coup and that aid should be suspended.
Some parts of the national security establishment, however, regarded the Muslim Brotherhood as having been too lax in its attitudes to jihadi terrorists, including those who orchestrated attacks on the US embassy in Cairo and the US consulate in Benghazi in neighbouring Libya on Sept 11 last year.
In particular, there has been an upsurge in jihadist activity in Sinai, where Egyptian soldiers have been killed and kidnapped and there have been occasional skirmishes with Israeli border guards.
Since the coup, there have been a number of attacks by militants on police stations and government buildings. On Saturday, a Christian priest was shot dead by gunmen on a motorbike and another Christian, kidnapped at the same time, was found decapitated on Thursday.
A Brotherhood leader, Mohammed Beltagy, caused uproar by saying the attacks would stop the second the military ordered the “cancellation of the coup”, though the organisation later insisted this did not mean that the Brotherhood “controlled” terrorism there.