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US aid to Egypt in peril amid crackdown on pro-democracy groups

Washington, Mon, 06 Feb 2012 ANI

Washington, Feb.6 (ANI): American aid to Egypt, which is estimated at an average of two billion dollars a year, is reportedly in peril with U.S. lawmakers threatening to block assistance in response to Egypt's crackdown on pro-democracy groups.


The Washington Post quoted Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton, as saying in Munich: "We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt." We do not want that."


Under new conditions imposed by Congress, the Obama administration must certify that Egypt is taking specific steps toward democracy before disbursing 1.3 billion dollars in military aid.


But a senior Obama administration official, who was not authorized to speak by name, said there is currently no way to certify that all conditions are being met.


"We've told the Egyptians that we're in a very difficult situation," the official said.


That message is being hammered home by the State Department, the Pentagon and - in a rare show of bipartisanship - Republican and Democratic lawmakers, many of whom are meeting with a delegation of Egyptian generals visiting Washington.


In discussions, U.S. officials - from President Obama to the staff at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo - have repeatedly warned of the consequences if Egypt doesn't change course.


Thus far, the Egyptian leadership appears unmoved.


At stake in the growing rift over the issue is a fragile post-revolution relationship between the United States and Egypt.


U.S. aid to Cairo began flowing in 1979 following Egypt's peace deal with Israel.


Over time, assistance to the Egyptian military became a routine, almost sacrosanct transaction.


That changed last year in the aftermath of Hosni Mubarak's ouster. In a bid to keep the country's military on the path to democracy, members of Congress, led by Sen. Patrick Leahy (Democrat-Vermont) tacked on conditions to U.S. aid to Egypt.


The new rules required that the State Department certify that Egypt is committed to fair elections and abides by its 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and enact policies to protect "freedom of speech, association and religion and due process of law."


While the Obama administration objected vociferously to those restrictions at the time, they have become the key leverage in its talks with Egypt's leaders.


Under the new law, the White House could waive the certification requirement on national security grounds, but senior officials say a waiver would be politically impossible given the current ire in Washington over the crackdown on NGOs.


The crisis was sparked by Egyptian authorities' decision to raid the offices of several U.S.-funded organizations that train politicians and political parties and promote accountability and transparency in governance. (ANI)


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