Friday, March 23, 2012

Clinton to open way to resume aid to Egypt

WASHINGTON: US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton will open the way Friday to resuming $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt that had been suspended over human rights concerns.

"Tomorrow, Secretary Clinton will certify that Egypt is meeting its obligations under its peace treaty with Israel," a senior State Department official said in an email Thursday.

The move will free up $250 million in economic aid that had never been in serious question.

Clinton would also waive requirements on whether Cairo is making progress towards democracy to allow for "the continued flow of foreign military financing to Egypt," said the official who asked to remain anonymous.

The move will free up $1.3 billion dollars in military aid this year.

The official stressed that "on the democracy side, Egypt has made more progress in 16 months than in the last 60 years," highlighting free and fair parliamentary elections as well as the transfer of legislative authority to the new people's assembly.

"Yet Egypt's transition to democracy is not yet complete, and more work remains to protect universal rights and freedoms, and the role of NGOs and civil society," the official added.

The annual military aid, which has underpinned US ties to Cairo for three decades and cemented Egypt's 1979 peace with Israel, had come under review amid Cairo's crackdown on pro-democracy groups.

"These decisions reflect our overarching goal: to maintain our strategic partnership with an Egypt made stronger and more stable by a successful transition to democracy," the State Department official added.

In December, Egyptian prosecutors stormed the offices of the US-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as part of a probe into allegations of illegal foreign funding.

Egyptian and other foreign non-government organizations were also raided.

In January, Egypt then barred some US members of the NGOs -- which are seeking to promote Egypt's fledgling democracy -- from leaving the country and a number of them took refuge at the US embassy.

Tensions between Cairo and Washington eased this month when Egypt allowed six American and seven other foreign NGO members to leave the country after they posted bail, even if the case remains unresolved.

Senator Patrick Leahy, who sponsored the legislation that tied conditions to aid, said he was "disappointed" by Clinton's decision.

"I know Secretary Clinton wants the democratic transition in Egypt to succeed, but by waiving the conditions we send a contradictory message," Leahy said in a statement.

"The Egyptian military should be defending fundamental freedoms and the rule of law, not harassing and arresting those who are working for democracy," he said.

Now that she has taken her decision, he said, Clinton should use the law to "release no more taxpayer funds than is demonstrably necessary, withholding the rest in the Treasury pending further progress in the transition to democracy."

- AFP/wm

View the original article here

Source From Channel News Asia

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