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Mohammed Morsi hold a rally in Cairo on May 20, 2012.FREDRIK PERSSON/The Associated Press

World leaders offered largely guarded reactions to the Egyptian military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsi, with several urging caution and a quick return to democratic rule.

U.S. President Barack Obama said he was "deeply concerned" by Mr. Morsi's removal and the suspension of the country's constitution. He ordered his government to assess what the actions meant for foreign aid to Egypt.

"I now call on the Egyptian military to move quickly and responsibly to return full authority back to a democratically elected civilian government as soon as possible through an inclusive and transparent process, and to avoid any arbitrary arrests of President Morsy and his supporters," he said in a statement issued Wednesday.

The U.S., along with other powers, stopped short of denouncing the move as a military coup, which could trigger automatic sanctions.

United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon urged a swift restoration of civilian rule, restraint and respect for civil rights. But he did not condemn the military action.

"Many Egyptians in their protests have voiced deep frustrations and legitimate concerns. … At the same time, military interference in the affairs of any state is of concern."

Canada urged calm, with Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird calling for a return to a democratic system through "meaningful political dialogue".

"Canada firmly believes that implementing a transparent democratic system that respects the voices of its citizens, and that encourages and respects the contributions of civil society and all other segments of the population – including religious minorities – is the best way to restore calm and give all Egyptians a stake in the future stability and prosperity of Egypt," he said in a statement.

Negative reaction

The strongest negative reaction came from Turkey, which, like Mr. Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood, has Islamist roots.

"It is unacceptable for a government that has come to power through democratic elections to be toppled through illicit means and, even more, a military coup," said Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu.

German Foreign Minister Guido Westerwelle called the latest events in Egypt "a serious setback for democracy".

Meanwhile, the African Union is likely to suspend Egypt from all its activities. The AU's peace and security council is to meet on Friday and was likely to implement the AU's usual response to any interruption of constitutional rule by a member state, a senior AU source told Reuters.

"The belief is that the doctrine will be applied, which is suspension for any country where an unconstitutional change has taken place," he said.

Positive responses

Most Gulf Arab states, rattled by the rise of Islamists in the Middle East, watched with relief as the Egyptian army stepped in to try to end the most serious crisis in the Arab world's most populous country since President Hosni Mubarak was overthrown in 2011.

The United Arab Emirates and Kuwait congratulated Adli Mansour after he was sworn in as Egypt's new interim leader on Thursday.

"We followed with all consideration and satisfaction the national consensus that your brotherly country is witnessing, and which had played a prominent role in leading Egypt peacefully out of the crisis it had faced," UAE President Sheikh Khalifa bin Zayed al-Nahayan said in a cable to Mr. Mansour.

Kuwait's ruler Sheikh Sabah al-Ahmad al-Sabah congratulated Egypt's interim president and people. He praised Egypt's armed forces for the "positive and historic role" it played in preserving stability, according to the KUNA state news agency.

The new emir of Qatar, the only Gulf Arab state that formally backed the Muslim Brotherhood, also "sent a cable of congratulations" to Mr. Mansour, according to state news agency QNA.

Equivocal reaction

Iran offered a guarded response to Mr. Morsi's removal, calling for the people's "legitimate demands" to be fulfilled and warning of "foreign and enemy opportunism".

"With respect for the political origins of its (Egypt's) discerning, civilized and historic people, the Islamic Republic emphasizes the need to fulfill their legitimate demands and is hopeful that ... developments will provide an atmosphere to meet their needs," Foreign Ministry spokesman Abbas Araqchi said, according to the Fars news agency.

The statement was notably more equivocal than before Mr. Morsi was deposed. On Tuesday, an Iranian official said the Egyptian president had been elected by the will of the nation and called on the armed forces to "take heed of the vote of the people".

With reports from Reuters and The Associated Press