LONDON - U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry backed away Friday from his comments that seemed to signal American support for the Egyptian military coup and the ouster of President Mohammed Morsi.
The U.S. has tried hard not to appear to be taking sides in the crisis. But when Kerry said Thursday in Pakistan that the Egyptian military was "'restoring democracy" in leading the July 3 coup, it left the impression that the U.S. backed the military action. Kerry moved quickly to defuse the flap, saying on Friday that all parties - the military as well as pro-Morsi demonstrators - needed to work toward a peaceful and "'inclusive" political resolution of the crisis.
His backpedaling came after his comments were denounced by Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, which insists that the democratically elected Morsi is the legitimate leader of Egypt.
"Does Secretary Kerry accept Defense Secretary (Chuck) Hagel to step in and remove (U.S. President Barack) Obama if large protests take place in America?" a spokesman of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood, Gehad el-Haddad, asked.
The flap over Kerry's remarks came at a bad time. Just as Kerry was in London trying to clarify his statement from the day before, Deputy Secretary of State William Burns was landing in Cairo to urge Egyptian leaders to avoid violence and help facilitate a political exit strategy to end the stalemate that has paralyzed Egypt.
It is unclear if Burns will meet Morsi, who has been kept out of sight since being overthrown on July 3.
In Cairo, meanwhile, authorities announced plans Friday to besiege two sit-ins filled with Morsi's supporters, but hundreds of his loyalists defiantly set up a third camp near Cairo's international airport.
Riot police, meanwhile, fired tear gas at Morsi supporters who rallied in front of a complex housing most of Egypt's private TV stations in southern Cairo, a security official said. A second official told the state news agency that protesters tried to "obstruct traffic in an attempt to affect work at the complex."
State-controlled TV said security forces will establish a cordon within 48 hours around the two main sites where thousands have been camped out since before the president was ousted by the military on July 3.
Authorities will let people leave without checking identities or arresting them, but they will not allow anyone into the protest camps, the report said.