CAIRO, July 5 (UPI) -- Whether the United States keeps providing $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt depends on how President Mohamed Morsi was removed from office, observers said.
President Obama's administration Thursday was reviewing the implications for U.S. aid to Egypt after Morsi was ousted Wednesday, The New York Times reported.
U.S. law states financial assistance to the country must be cut off if it is determined Morsi was removed in a military coup. Egyptian officials said what happened Wednesday didn't result from a military coup but because of a popular uprising.
Egypt is one of the largest recipients of U.S. aid and the Obama administration, just as those of his predecessors, has been reluctant to turn off the flow to help assure Egypt remains committed to its peace agreement with Israel, the Times said.
Some specialists told the Times U.S. aid should be cut off now.
"The law is there for a reason," said Tamara Cofman Wittes, director of the Saban Center for Middle East Policy at the Brookings Institution and a former State Department official for Obama. "It's there to incentivize governments that came in place through military coup to go back to democratic rule as soon as possible."
In Cairo, though, Morsi opponents said his ouster did not qualify as a military coup because it came after millions of protesters took to the streets, a position espoused by government officials.
"It's not a coup because the military did not take power," Egyptian Ambassador Mohamed Tawfik told Foreign Policy magazine. "The military did not initiate it. It was a popular uprising. The military stepped in in order to avoid violence."
But others argue otherwise, the Times said.
"With the entire world calling this a coup, why isn't the American administration calling it so?" asked Wael Haddara, a Morsi senior adviser.
The Foreign Assistance Act states no aid other than that for democracy promotion may be sent to "any country whose duly elected head of government is deposed by military coup d'etat," or where "the military plays a decisive role" in a coup. The law doesn't permit a presidential waiver and says aid can't be restored until "a democratically elected government has taken office."
This year's military aid was distributed in May, the Times said.
The United States cut off aid after military officers overthrew civilian governments in Ivory Coast, the Central African Republic, Fiji and, at one point, Pakistan.