Cairo condemns Washington for suspending military aid

Ahram Online , Thursday 10 Oct 2013

Egypt lashes out at the US administration for halting military hardware and cash assistance deliveries in a signal of concern over the country's democratic transition

 Jen Psaki
US State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki (Photo: AP)

Egypt Thursday condemned a decision by the United States to suspend deliveries of major arms and cash assistance to the Egyptian government, despite assertions of continuing support for interim authorities.

Washington said on Wednesday that it had halted deliveries of large-scale military systems, as well as $260 million in cash aid to the Egyptian military, amid concerns over the country's democratic transition and mounting violence following the ouster of Islamist leader Mohamed Morsi.

The US review was launched in August after a security crackdown on Islamists left hundreds of people dead. The freeze, which the state department said was not meant to be permenant, would remain in effect "pending credible progress toward an inclusive, democratically-elected civilian government through free and fair elections," State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a statement.

The US is halting the shipments of Apache helicopters, missiles, fighter jets and tank parts, officials said.

Egypt's Ministry of Foreign Affairs spokesman lashed out at the move, despite it being "temporary and entailing no cut or reduction of aid," and "was accompanied by US assertions of keeping up support for Egypt's transitional government."

"The decision was wrong in terms of content and time. It raises serious questions about US readiness to provide stable strategic support to Egyptian security progammes amid threats and terrorism challenges it has been facing," spokesman Badr Abdel Atty said in a statement Thursday.

Abdel Atty, who said Egypt is keen on maintaining good relations with the US, asserted that his country will manage its own security needs.

"Egypt will take domestic decisions independently and without external influences and will work towards securing its vital needs ... namely those related to its national security."

The decision to freeze major military hardware deliveries was marked in a Wednesday call between US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel and Egypt's military chief, Abdel Fattah El-Sisi.

The United States, however, will keep up assistance to counter terrorism activities, "to help secure Egypt's borders" and bolster "counterterrorism and proliferation, and ensure security in the Sinai," Psaki said.

Egypt has been fighting a growing militant insurgency in the Sinai Peninsula since the army ousted Morsi 3 July following mammoth protests against his rule. The surge in militant activity in the region has raised international concerns, as it adjoins major US ally Israel, and strands the Suez Canal, a vital global waterway between Asia and Europe.

The State Department also said it would continue its support for health programmes, education and private sector development, as well as some aspects of military equipment as well as military training and education.

Washington has trodden carefully on the matter of Morsi's removal, shying away from calling it a "coup." But the US administration has repeatedly condemned growing violence following his removal and a deadly crackdown on his supporters.

Egypt has been engulfed in violent turmoil that has killed over 1,000 since 3 July. In renewed bloodshed, some 57 people, mostly Morsi-loyalists, were killed Sunday as they clashed with security forces and opposing civilians.

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