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US-Egypt relations strong, but 'no friendship without bumps': Patterson

Ongoing trial of American NGO workers came as 'shock' to Washington, but US-Egypt relationship will 'continue to flourish,' US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Patterson declares Thursday

Ahram Online, Thursday 1 Nov 2012
Anne Paterson
US Ambassador to Egypt Anne Paterson (Photo: AFP)

The US ambassador to Egypt Anne Paterson affirmed that the relationship between Egypt and America remains strong but that "no friendship persists without bumps along the road," in an interview with pan-Arab daily Asharq Al-Awsat, Thursday.

Patterson commented that the ongoing NGO trial, in which a number of American civil society workers have been accused, came as a "shock" to Washington.  

Forty-three Egyptian and foreign employees from five international NGOs are currently facing jail sentences for being part of unregistered organisations and hence receiving illegal funding. Only one American, Robert Becker, who decided to stay in Egypt, is actually in the dock, the others are being tried in absentia. 

"The American NGOs functioning in Egypt were carrying out their work in complete transparency and goodwill in an effort to support and develop Egyptian civil society," Patterson added. The move to raise a lawsuit against them, she noted, put Egypt's image abroad in a negative light.

Patterson, however, stressed that despite the bumps "every now and then", US-Egypt relations will continue to flourish.

She added this will remain the case regardless of the results of the US elections next week, which will see President Barack Obama pitted against Republican candidate Mitt Romney.   

Commenting on the Egyptian presidential elections, the US Ambassador denied that America had pushed for their preferred candidate the Muslim Brotherhood's Mohamed Morsi, who ran against Mubarak-era prime minister Ahmed Shafiq.

"Our main objective was to support a truly democratic process that truly represents the Egyptian people's will, something that was clearly reflected through the ballots," she added.

Patterson also spoke about the case of the "Blind Sheikh" Omar Abdel-Rahman: a thorny issue for the two nations.

Abdel-Rahman is currently serving a decade-old sentence in the US for his "involvement" in the 1993 World Trade Centre bombing and for helping plan the 9/11 attacks on the States from inside prison.

In response to several Egyptians' demands for his release and an ongoing year-long protest outside the US embassy in downtown Cairo, Patterson stated he is currently receiving humane treatment in detention.

She further added that he has been allowed to consult with his lawyer, call his family members and to carry out his prayers in his detention cell. 

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