21 August, 2013

US Mulls Cutting Egypt Aid Amid Crackdown

US Mulls Cutting Egypt Aid Amid Crackdown
Cabinet-level talks discuss US support for Egypt as the military-backed interim government in Cairo clamps down on Islamists.

Egyptian security forces outside a burnt mosque in Cairo

The White House has been holding a cabinet-level meeting to discuss cutting some aid to Egypt, according to officials.

Spokesman for the Obama administration Josh Earnest confirmed a National Security Council principles meeting would take place and cabinet members such as Secretary of State John Kerry would participate.

Earlier, a Senate aide claimed the US had already halted aid to the military-backed interim government amid the continuing crackdown on supporters of deposed Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

Hundreds of protesters calling for the democratically-elected Mr Morsi to be reinstated as the country's leader have been killed during recent clashes with security forces in Cairo.

David Carle, who works for Senator Patrick Leahy, said the Senate Appropriations panel for foreign relations has been informed the "transfer of military aid was stopped".

But Pentagon spokesman George Little appeared to play down the remarks, saying: "There has been no decision to halt or to suspend assistance to Egypt."

The Obama administration has said it was reviewing US aid to its long-time ally in the Middle East in light of the overthrow of Mr Morsi and the ongoing crackdown on his Muslim Brotherhood supporters.

But it said it has made no final decisions.

The Muslim Brotherhood's spiritual leader has been arrested

Mr Morsi was deposed by the military on July 3 in what his supporters call a coup but the US government has stopped of calling it that - because according to US law foreign aid must be suspended during a coup.

One US official, speaking on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to discuss the issue publicly, said American companies were still being paid for Egypt aid programmes and "nothing has stopped".

The administration also planned to spend all of the remaining military assistance money before end of the fiscal year on September 30, said the official.

It comes after State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said Washington still had not delivered $585m (£373m) for 2013, which is almost half the annual military aid package.

Mr Carle claimed the suspension reflected the Obama administration's "current practice, not necessarily official policy". He added there was no indication how long military assistance would be held up.

The American government gives $1.5bn (£965m) each year to Egypt, with $1.3bn (£836m) of that going to the military.

The latest development comes as the supreme leader of Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood was arrested on charges of "inciting the murder of protesters".

Mohammed Badie was arrested in an apartment near Rabaa al Adawiya square, where hundreds of Morsi supporters were killed last Wednesday as security forces cleared their protest camp.

The Brotherhood quickly announced that a deputy, Mahmoud Ezzat, would assume the post of supreme guide on an interim basis.
Senior members of the organisation, including Mr Badie, are wanted for questioning, accused of inciting the deaths of protesters.

The arrest comes days after his son was killed.

Egypt's interior ministry has said it has arrested more than 1,000 Muslim Brotherhood "elements" during the unrest.



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