Mursi needs to listen to voices of Egyptian people: US

WASHINGTON (AFP) - Egyptian President Mohamed Mursi must listen to the voices of the people to resolve a damaging political crisis which could lead to military intervention, a US official said on Tuesday.

Mr Mursi, an Islamist leader who became the country's first democratically elected president, was Tuesday locked in talks with the army chief Abdel Fattah al-Sisi, amid mounting calls from the opposition that he should step down a year after his election.

The United States has been watching events in its deeply divided key regional ally with growing concern, as a Wednesday deadline set by the army for an end to the crisis nears. The military has warned that otherwise it could be forced to intervene to protect the stability of the country.

Just hours after President Barack Obama called Mr Mursi on Tuesday, Secretary of State John Kerry telephoned his Egyptian counterpart Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr to discuss the situation, even though Mr Amr reportedly resigned from the government earlier in the day.

Mr Kerry "stressed that democracy is about more than just elections. It's also about ensuring the voices of all Egyptians are heard," State Department spokesman Jen Psaki said.

"He also reiterated what our goal is, which is a peaceful, stable and prosperous Egypt." She denied however as "inaccurate" a report that Mr Obama had pressed Mr Mursi to hold early elections.

"The president urged President Mursi to take steps to show that he is responsive to their concerns, and the secretary agrees that that is an important step for the government to take," Psaki said.

But she refused to outline what concrete steps he might take, saying that was up to the Egyptian people and referring instead to US concerns over violence and respecting the views of the people.

"We know that democracy takes time, of course, and what we're seeing happen in Egypt is that transpiring over time," she said.

Mr Psaki also said it was too early to say whether the Obama administration was in discussion about cutting its substantial aid to Egypt.

Washington provides some US$1.3 billion (S$1.65 billion) in annual military aid to Cairo, which under US law could be in jeopardy if there is a military takeover.

In May, Mr Kerry quietly granted a waiver to approve a continuation of the aid for the fiscal year 2013, despite concerns over democratic progress by Mr Mursi's government.

Mr Mursi was elected in June last year after former strongman Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular uprising in early 2011.

But US officials and others have warned that the promise of the Egyptian revolution is in danger of being hijacked, and Mr Mursi's opponents accuse him of governing in the interests of the Muslim Brotherhood, the party on whose ticket he ran in the presidential election.

The US embassy in Cairo meanwhile issued a security notice to US citizens to say it would be closed on Wednesday, which could mean it may remain closed for the rest of the week with Thursday being the US July 4 Independence Day and Friday the usual day of rest in the Arab world.