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By Chief Washington Correspondent Jake Tapper
President Barack Obama spoke out against violence in Egypt Thursday, saying the United States "deplored" violence against civilians.
The speech was a call for calm on both sides.
A senior White House official told CNN's Jake Tapper that Obama was briefed on the situation in Egypt by National Security Adviser Susan Rice Wednesday, but the situation was still very much in flux, with many conflicting reports.
But this morning, the president had a phone call, a “principals’ meeting” with Secretary of Defense Chuck Hagel, Secretary of State John Kerry, the Director of National Intelligence James Clapper, and other top officials. It was during that briefing that the president heard more definitive information about the severity of the violence in Egypt. That conversation motivated him to come out Thursday, and call for calm.
“The smoke cleared,” the official said, providing a clearer picture of what happened, with more than 600 killed, and providing impetus for the president to cancel the joint U.S.-Egypt military exercises planned for next month, a decision the Pentagon conveyed to the Egyptian government.
The president's speech called for not only Egypt's government to stop the violence, but for protesters to demonstrate peacefully. According to the senior White House official, that is because of reports from the region of violent demonstrators, and attacks on churches and police stations.