(NEW YORK) — Perhaps angered by Egypt’s slow response to condemning the U.S. Embassy attack in Cairo, President Obama told Telemundo on Wednesday, “I don’t think that we would consider [the current Egyptian government] an ally but we don’t consider them an enemy.”
It wasn’t until 24 hours after Tuesday’s siege that Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi wrote what many considered a tepid denunciation of the protesters. They shouted anti-American slogans and tore down the U.S. flag in response to an anti-Islamic film produced by an American and promoted by a Florida pastor who previously enraged the Muslim world by threatening to burn the Quran.
Morsi’s party, the Muslim Brotherhood, hasn’t been particularly friendly to the U.S. in the past since previous administrations had supported former ruler Hosni Mubarak, who was forced to step down more than 18 months ago in a people’s revolution known as the “Arab spring.”
Obama told Telemundo that he felt the new Egyptian government was “a work in progress,” but there could be “a real big problem” if it refused to address U.S. security concerns in light of the latest crisis.
Meanwhile, Obama spoke to Morsi Wednesday night as demonstrators began gathering again in Cairo and had to be dispersed by Egyptian security forces.
In a statement, the White House said during the call “President Obama underscored the importance of Egypt following through on its commitment to cooperate with the United States in securing U.S. diplomatic facilities and personnel. The President said that he rejects efforts to denigrate Islam, but underscored that there is never any justification for violence against innocents and acts that endanger American personnel and facilities.”
“President Morsi expressed his condolences for the tragic loss of American life in Libya and emphasized that Egypt would honor its obligation to ensure the safety of American personnel,” the statement concluded.
On Thursday, Morsi further promised protection, saying at a meeting in Brussels, Belgium, “We assured President Obama that we will be keen and we will not permit any such event, any such occurrence in our country against the embassies.”
Copyright 2012 ABC News Radio
Stephen Collinson, CNN
Kevin Liptak, CNN