“I don’t think that we would consider them an ally, but we don’t consider them an enemy,” Obama said in excerpts of an interview with Telemundo aired by MSNBC.
Obama commented after thousands of demonstrators tore down the Stars and Stripes at the US embassy in Cairo Tuesday in response to an amateurish anti-Islamic film made in the United States and reportedly promoted by a group of US-based Coptic Christians.
It preceded an attack on the US consulate in Libya that killed Washington’s envoy to that country along with three other US citizens.
Egypt is led by President Mohamed Morsi, who was was elected the country’s first Islamist leader in June following an uprising that toppled Hosni Mubarak early last year.
Worrying for Washington, Morsi’s first reaction was not to condemn the attack on the US embassy but rather the film that provoked it.
“I think that we are going to have to see how they respond to this incident,” Obama said.
“Certainly in this situation, what we’re going to expect is that they are responsive to our insistence that our embassy is protected, our personnel is protected,” Obama said.
“And if they take actions that indicate they’re not taking those responsibilities, as all other countries do where we have embassies, I think that’s going to be a real big problem.”
Calling it a “work in progress,” Obama said the new government was “trying to find its way” and noted it was democratically elected.
The interview is to be aired in full over the coming days. Telemundo and MSNBC are affiliated.