Pelosi: ‘Even If Israel Did Not Exist … We Really Do Have to Help Egypt Go Forward’

By Elizabeth Harrington | September 13, 2012 | 6:19 PM EDT

House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

( – House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) stopped short of calling Egypt an ally of the United States on Thursday but said, “Even if Israel did not exist, the fact is that we really do have to help Egypt go forward.”

As protests continue in Cairo two days after the U.S. embassy was stormed and the American flag burned and replaced with an Islamic one, Pelosi echoed President Barack Obama’s statement that America does not see Egypt as either an ally, or an enemy.

During her weekly press conference on Capitol Hill, a reporter asked Pelosi: “You traveled to Egypt earlier this year.  There have been protests at the embassy there in relation to a movie depicting Mohammed and Islam, or the Muslim religion.  Do you feel that Egypt is an ally to the United States?”

Pelosi said, “Egypt, I believe, is the largest Muslim country in the world. It is a force in the Middle East.  It is a country with whom we must have a good relationship.”

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“It’s important, again, for our national security interest and part of our national security interest involves the security of Israel,” Pelosi said.  “But even if Israel did not exist, the fact is that we really do have to help Egypt go forward.”

“And yes, I don’t know about the word ally -- we’ll see,” she added.  “But the fact is that we have an interest in Egypt’s success.  And let’s hope that we can do that as allies.”

President Obama supported the uprisings in Egypt in January 2011 and called for Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak to step down.  A majority Islamist parliament and a Muslim Brotherhood leader have since replaced Mubarak, with the election of Mohammed Morsi earlier this year.

Islamist protesters destroy an American flag pulled down from the U.S. embassy in Cairo, Egypt, Tuesday, Sept. 11, 2012. (AP Photo/Mohammed Abu Zaid)

On the 11th anniversary of the 9/11 attacks protests broke out at the U.S. consulates in both Cairo, Egypt and Benghazi, Libya, allegedly due to outrage over an anti-Islamic film.  Some news reports say evidence indicates the attacks were specifically designed to coincide with the 9/11 anniversary and may be linked to al Qaeda.

The Libya attack left four Americans dead, including Ambassador Chris Stevens, Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith, and Glen Doherty, a former Navy SEAL.

Egyptian leader Morsi did not condemn the violence until Thursday, but added that he “strongly” condemns those “who launch provocations and who stand behind that hatred.”

He said he asked Obama to "to put an end to such behavior," referring to the little known film that mocked Islam.

"But at the same time we say this cannot be taken as a justification for attacking embassies or consulates," Morsi said during a visit to the European Union in Brussels.

"The Egyptian state is responsible for protecting embassies and consulates, and the Egyptian people will not engage in these ... unlawful acts,” he said.

On Wednesday, President Obama said Egypt is a “new government that is trying to find its way."

Obama told the Spanish-language network Telemundo that the U.S. does not consider Egypt an ally, "but we don't consider them an enemy," he said.

Obama will meet with Morsi next week when he visits the United Nations, but Obama will not meet with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu.