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US Cuts, Delays $300M in Aid to Egypt  08/23 06:18

   The Trump administration on Tuesday cut nearly $100 million in military and 
economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million more in military 
financing to Egypt, pending human rights improvements and action to ease harsh 
restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups.

   WASHINGTON (AP) -- The Trump administration on Tuesday cut nearly $100 
million in military and economic aid to Egypt and delayed almost $200 million 
more in military financing to Egypt, pending human rights improvements and 
action to ease harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental groups. 
The moves underscore the administration's delicate diplomacy with Egypt, which 
has been widely criticized for its rights record and yet is a staunch 
counterterrorism partner.

   Officials said Secretary of State Rex Tillerson had decided to withhold 
$65.7 million in military assistance and $30 million in economic aid to Egypt 
that has been on hold since fiscal 2014, the officials said. That money will be 
reprogrammed, meaning it will now be sent to other countries, they said. The 
officials spoke on condition of anonymity because Congress had not been 
formally notified of the decision.

   At the same time, the officials said Rex Tillerson had signed a waiver 
saying that $195 million in military assistance to Egypt is in the U.S. 
national interest but had decided to hold off on spending it. Under federal 
law, Tillerson had until the end of this fiscal year, Sept. 30, to either sign 
the waiver, certify that Egypt is meeting the human rights conditions or return 
the money to the Treasury. The waiver gives Egypt additional time to meet the 
requirements for the $195 million, which Congress appropriated for fiscal year 
2016.

   The officials stressed that the U.S. continues to consider Egypt a key 
strategic partner but that it remains seriously concerned about a lack of 
progress on the human rights front, including the passage of the new law on 
non-governmental organizations that has been widely criticized for being 
excessive and used to crackdown on opposition. The $195 million will be held in 
reserve until Egypt makes progress in those areas, the officials said.

   Egypt is the second largest recipient of military aid from the United States 
after Israel, receiving about $1.3 billion annually and the officials noted 
that the U.S. has provided nearly $80 billion in military and economic 
assistance to Egypt over the past 30 years. They said the U.S. would continue 
to support Egypt's efforts to defeat extremists and terrorism as well as the 
country's economic development.

   Tillerson's dual decisions reflect a difficult balancing act that the 
administration is playing with Egypt. President Donald Trump has signaled his 
approval of Egyptian President Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi's tough stance against 
terrorism yet many members of the administration, including Tillerson, and 
numerous lawmakers harbor serious doubts about his rights record and commitment 
to democratic reform.

   When Trump met with el-Sissi in the White House in April he made no mention 
of Egypt's human rights record in the post-meeting statement, an omission that 
many took as a sign that the issue was not a priority for the administration. 
Yet, two months later, two senators from Trump's Republican Party slammed as 
"draconian" the law that effectively bans the work of non-governmental 
organizations and urged that it be repealed.

   The law has triggered wide international backlash and raised concerns over 
human rights conditions in Egypt. But Egypt has defended the law, saying it was 
drafted and passed in accordance with constitutional provisions. The Foreign 
Ministry said the law "supports and empowers civil society."

   El-Sissi is grappling with an insurgency by Islamic militants in the 
northern part of the Sinai Peninsula, an economy struggling to keep up with 
demands and employment needs of Egypt's surging population, and a sustained 
campaign of violence against the country's Christian minority. 


(KA)

 
 
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