CAIRO (NBC News) – President Barack Obama strongly condemned Egypt's interim government Thursday, saying the United States was canceling a planned joint military operation in protest over violent clashes that left at least 525 dead.
He also called on Egypt's army-backed interim government to cancel the month-long state of emergency it imposed after Wednesday's clashes, and to respect the rights of minorities.
"The cycle of violence needs to stop," he said in Massachusetts where he is on a working vacation.
Obama said Operation Bright Star – a joint biennial military exercise that had been due to take place in the Sinai region next month - would not now happen. It followed the decision last month to halt a planned delivery of F-16 fighter jets.
Obama spoke after security forces - backed by bulldozers - cleared two Cairo sit-in camps protesting the military's removal of the country's democratically elected leader. The health ministry announced Thursday that the death toll from subsequent clashes reached 525, with 3,572 others injured. Activists said the true death toll was much higher.
The violent clearance of the camps triggered a backlash around Egypt, prompting the interim government to declare a month-long state of emergency and impose a night-time curfew.
It also sparked the resignation of Nobel Peace Prize winner and interim government minister Mohamed ElBaradei.
The turmoil is the latest chapter in a bitter standoff between Morsi's supporters and the interim leadership that seized control of the Arab world's most populous country on July 3.
Morsi's removal came after millions of Egyptians massed in the streets at the end of June to call for him to step down, accusing him of giving the Brotherhood undue influence and failing to implement vital reforms or bolster the ailing economy.
Morsi himself has been held at an undisclosed location, and faces charges – brought by the security forces – that he colluded with Palestinian militants.
His detention was extended Thursday for another 30 days.