Clinton tells Egypt’s foreign minister US aid threatened by NGO dispute

US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton issued a new warning to Egypt on Saturday that the failure to resolve a bitter dispute over the status of non-governmental pro-democracy groups might lead to the loss of American aid to the country.

Clinton restated the message, which had already been transmitted to officials in Cairo, to Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr at an international security conference in Munich. The US is due to give Egypt US$1.3 billion in military assistance and US$250 million in economic aid in 2012.

“We are very clear that there are problems that arise from this situation that can impact all the rest of our relationship with Egypt,” Clinton told reporters. “We do not want that. We have worked very hard this past year to put in place financial assistance and other support for the economic and political reforms that are occurring in Egypt.”

“We will have to closely review these matters as it comes for us to certify whether any of these funds from our government can be made available under these circumstances,” she said.

Under US law, Clinton must certify to Congress that Egypt is meeting certain requirements, including enacting democratic and rule-of-law reforms, in order for the assistance to be released.

US-Egyptian tensions have been high since raids on the organizations, including some funded by the American government, took place late last year, rising further after Egypt refused to allow some American workers to leave the country. Three of those workers are now holed up in the US Embassy in Cairo, fearing imprisonment.

Egypt’s investigation into foreign-funded organizations officially began when heavily armed security forces raided 17 offices belonging to 10 pro-democracy and human rights groups in late December. United States and UN officials blasted the raids, which Egyptian officials defended as part of a legitimate investigation into the groups’ work and finances.

In late January, Egypt barred at least six Americans and four Europeans who worked for US-based organizations from leaving the country. Among the six is Sam LaHood, head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the only Republican in President Barack Obama’s cabinet.

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