Obama faces distasteful choice in Egypt

Obama faces distasteful choice in Egypt

WASHINGTON - The United States again faces the unpalatable policy dilemma that has shaped decades of relations with Egypt.

Should it swallow its values on human rights and democracy and sup with Egyptian generals who plotted a coup but are vital to US strategic and security interests?

The White House has struggled for two years to keep pace with Arab revolutions.

But the ouster of democratically-elected president Mohamed Morsi and a bloody crackdown on Islamist protesters have revived uncomfortable questions which dogged the alliance with strongman Hosni Mubarak.

For years, Washington bought a cold peace between Israel and Egypt, priority access to the Suez Canal, a partner in Middle East peace brokering and checked the spread of Islamic extremism with billions of dollars in mostly military aid.

Now, President Barack Obama must decide whether to renew that pragmatic bargain with a government again accused of crushing bedrock freedoms. "This is a balancing act between how to best promote our interests and our values and our principles," said Marie Harf, a State Department spokeswoman.

Early signs suggest national interests will be decisive.

With rare candor, the White House will not call Morsi's ouster a coup - to avoid being forced to cut aid to Egypt under US law.

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