US top diplomat says 'too early' to judge Egypt path after Mursi

United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh (not in picture) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman on July 17, 2013. Mr Kerry said on Wednesday that it was too ea
United States Secretary of State John Kerry speaks during a joint news conference with Jordan's Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh (not in picture) at the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Amman on July 17, 2013. Mr Kerry said on Wednesday that it was too early to judge the future course of Egypt following the ouster of Mr Mohamed Mursi. -- PHOTO: REUTERS

AMMAN (AFP) - United States (US) Secretary of State John Kerry said on Wednesday that it was too early to judge the future course of Egypt following the ouster of Mr Mohamed Mursi.

"Very clearly order needs to be restored to the streets, stability needs to be restored, violence needs to be ended, rights need to be protected... and the country needs to be able to return to normal business," Mr Kerry told a press conference in Amman.

"We are concerned about political arrests and we are concerned about the freedom of people to be able to participate, because we think that's an important part of the restoration of the heart and soul of Egypt," Mr Kerry said.

But he added it was "much too early to make pronouncements or judge where it's going to go".

"The proof will be in the pudding," the top US diplomat said, adding that Washington would continue to push for an inclusive government in Cairo.

On Monday, Deputy Secretary William Burns became the most senior American official to visit Cairo since the July 3 coup against Mr Mursi, and urged Egypt's divided factions to engage in dialogue and end violence.

But Jordanian Foreign Minister Nasser Judeh said he had just returned from the Egyptian capital, where he met with the interim leadership, and "was extremely reassured of the implementation of the political roadmap that they've set out for themselves".

He did not shy away from saying that the putsch against Mr Mursi had been a coup, saying that the military had intervened as it has done in the past in Egypt's political life.

"The military as an institution, I think, saw the potential for real danger and violence and fragmentation and the possibility of civil war with 20 million people out on the streets in different parts of Egypt. And they intervened to put the political constitutional process back on track," Mr Judeh said.

Washington has refrained from saying Mr Mursi was the victim of a coup, which would legally require a freeze on some US$1.5 billion (S$1.9 billion) in US military and economic assistance to Cairo.

Mr Kerry again refused to say whether the US believed that Mr Mursi's ouster was a coup, saying: "This is obviously an extremely complex and difficult situation.

"The fact is we need to take the time necessary, because of the complexity of the situation, to evaluate what has taken place, to review all of our requirements under the law and to make it consistent with our policy objectives, as is appropriate.

"I'm not going to rush to judgement on it. I'm going to wait until our lawyers have done their homework on it," he told the joint press conference with Mr Judeh.

But he said, prior to Mr Mursi's ouster, there had been an "extraordinary situation in Egypt, of life and death, of the potential of civil war and enormous violence, and you now have a constitutional process proceeding forward very rapidly".

All of those facts had to be measured "against the law," he added.

He said that "at first blush" he looked at the line-up of the interim government and he knew that "they were extremely competent people."

He was speaking after meeting with Arab League ministers and officials at which the upheaval in Egypt was one of the main topics on the agenda.