Egypt could become an Islamist state or face another military takeover if President Mohamed Morsi's judicial "power grab" is left unchecked, US Senator John McCain warned Sunday.
McCain, the 2008 Republican presidential nominee, urged President Barack Obama to be prepared to use billions of dollars of American aid as leverage to force Egypt's first Islamist leader to change course.
Asked about the chance of a new Islamist state in Egypt, McCain replied: "I think it could be headed that way. You also could be headed back into a military takeover if things went in the wrong direction. You could also see a scenario where there is continued chaos."
Morsi on Thursday undercut a hostile judiciary that had been considering whether to scrap an Islamist-dominated panel drawing up a new constitution, stripping judges of the right to rule on the case or challenge his decrees.
"This is not what the United States and American taxpayers expect and our dollars will be directly related to the progress towards democracy, which you promised the people of Egypt, when your party and you were elected president," McCain told the news talk show Fox News Sunday.
"Our leverage, obviously, is not only the substantial billions in aid we provide, plus debt forgiveness, plus an IMF deal, but also the marshaling (of) world public opinion (that) is also against this kind of move by Mr Morsi," he said.
Obama pledged $1 million in extra support to Egypt last year. This is separate from $1.3 billion in annual military funding that Washington already provides to Cairo.
The International Monetary Fund reached a deal with Egyptian authorities last week on a 22-month loan totaling some $4.8 billion to help the country overcome economic difficulties.
Morsi's opponents, bolstered by outrage from Egyptian justices and media organizations and criticism from the international community, have called for a mass demonstration in Cairo's Tahrir Square on Tuesday.
The political crisis, which comes less than two years after strongman Hosni Mubarak was ousted by a popular revolt, has sparked fears of new violence in the Arab world's most populous state.
It comes only days after Morsi was being toasted by world leaders for his diplomatic skill and moderation in helping forge a ceasefire between Gaza's Islamist rulers and Israel following a bloody eight-day conflict.
Morsi, who rose to power through the long-outlawed Muslim Brotherhood, was elected Egypt's first Islamist leader in June.
The new civilian government, which is backed by the Brotherhood, and the military, which held unrivaled influence under Mubarak, are still vying for control of the country.