US presses Egypt to avoid 'arbitrary' Mursi arrest: Official

WASHINGTON (AFP) - The United States (US) on Thursday pressed Egyptian officials to avoid the "arbitrary arrests" of ousted Islamist President Mohamed Mursi and his supporters, an administration official said.

Members of President Barack Obama's national security team have also stressed the importance of a "quick and responsible return" to elected civilian government in Cairo, in contacts with Egyptian officials and Washington's regional partners, the US official said, on condition of anonymity.

Mr Obama met again on Thursday with his top security aides to discuss the situation in Egypt, one day after the country's army announced Mr Mursi's overthrow, the official said.

"Members of the President's national security team have been in touch with Egyptian officials and our regional partners to convey the importance of a quick and responsible return of full authority to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible," the official said.

The US officials also emphasised the importance of "a transparent political process that is inclusive of all parties and groups; avoiding any arbitrary arrests of President Mursi and his supporters; and the responsibility of all groups and parties to avoid violence".

On Thursday, Egypt's army rounded up the leadership of Mr Mursi's Muslim Brotherhood. He and other senior leaders have been banned from travel pending investigation into their involvement in a prison break in 2011.

They are to be questioned starting on Monday.

On Wednesday, Mr Obama said he was "deeply concerned" over the military's ouster of Mr Mursi and said he had ordered a review of the legal implications for US aid to Egypt.

Mr Obama has proposed providing US$1.3 billion (S$1.7 billion) in military aid to Egypt in fiscal year 2014.

Since Wednesday, Secretary of State John Kerry had called his Egyptian counterpart Mohammed Kamel Amr and opposition leader Mohamed ElBaradei, the administration official said.

Mr Kerry also spoke to Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, as well as the foreign ministers of Norway, Turkey, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates.

The Pentagon announced on Wednesday that US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had spoken with Egypt's army chief General Abdel Fattah al-Sisi - the person who announced Mr Mursi's overthrow.