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White House condemns Egyptian violence, killing of protesters

A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi stands near a burnt motorcycle after late night
A member of the Muslim Brotherhood and supporter of deposed Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi stands near a burnt motorcycle after late night

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The White House on Monday condemned violence in Egypt that led to the killing of scores of demonstrators at the weekend but said it had taken no steps to suspend U.S. military assistance to the Arab world's most populous nation.

"The United States strongly condemns the violence and bloodshed in Cairo and Alexandria over the weekend that claimed the lives of scores of Egyptian demonstrators," White House spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters at a briefing.

Egypt's security forces shot dead at least 80 Muslim Brotherhood supporters early on Saturday after a day of rival mass rallies in Cairo. Ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi has been in army detention since his overthrow more than three weeks ago.

Earnest did not specifically blame the Egyptian military for the killings. Egypt's interior minister denied that police had opened fire on Saturday, saying residents living close to the site of the pro-Mursi rally had clashed with the protesters, and police had used teargas to try to break up the fighting.

Pressed on whether the rising body count in clashes would prompt the United States to pull back any of its annual $1.55 billion aid to Egypt, Earnest said: "I don't have any change in our posture to report to you today."

The violence hurts Egypt's attempts to build democracy and does not square with the military-backed interim government's pledge to swiftly return to civilian rule, Earnest said.

"Violence not only further sets back the process of reconciliation and democratization in Egypt, but it will negatively impact regional stability," he said.

Despite condemning the bloodshed, the administration has until now sidestepped suspending any of its aid to Egypt. U.S. law requires eliminating most aid in the event of a military coup, but officials said last week it is not in the U.S. national interest to make such a determination.

Aid is under review, as it has been since Egypt's military takeover on July 3, Earnest said. He pointed to a decision to halt delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt as a way U.S. policy has adapted to events on the ground.

While leaders of Egypt's interim government say they are committed to a democratic process, the current violence against protesters is at odds with that pledge, Earnest said.

"What we have told the Egyptians that we would like to see is a prompt return to democratic governance through an inclusive process," he said.

He renewed the U.S. call to release all political detainees.

(Reporting by Steve Holland, Jeff Mason and Mark Felsenthal; Editing by Mohammad Zargham)

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