US State Department: Up to Egyptians to decide on future of financial aid

It is up to the Egyptian people to decide whether they want to continue receiving financial assistance from the United States, the US State Department spokesperson said Monday.

“We believe it’s in the interest of the Egyptian people, but certainly it’s in the national interests of the US, to help Egypt in its transition to full democracy,” State Department spokesperson Mark Toner said at a press briefing.

The remarks came a day after Egyptian lawmakers in the Islamist-dominated Parliament called for a vote to end receiving more than US$1 billion in annual aid, a reflection of tensions with Washington over the case of Americans and others charged with illegally accepting foreign funds while working for pro-democracy groups.

The move came as the political crisis in Egypt began to ease after some lawmakers accused the army-backed cabinet of bowing to American pressure by allowing the Americans and other foreigners charged in the case to leave the country despite an apparent travel ban.

The lawmakers threatened to issue a no-confidence vote against the government, but on Tuesday, Egypt’s flagship newspaper Al-Ahram reported that after meetings between those in disagreement, a vote of no confidence is unlikely to happen.

Toner acknowledged he was aware of the motion in the Egyptian Parliament to deliberate on an end to US assistance.

“And certainly, it is within their own right to decide whether or if they want this assistance,” he added.

The spokesperson did not provide any further information about the demands of the family of Sheikh Omar Abdel Rahman, also known as the “Blind Sheikh,” for his release, telling the questioner to consult the US Justice Department about the matter.

Abdel Rahman is currently serving a life sentence in the US, convicted of masterminding the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center in New York City, among other charges. His family says he is innocent.

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