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US Nearing Announcement on Military Aid to Egypt


FILE - Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles to guard an entrance of Tahrir Square, in Cairo, August 2013.

FILE - Egyptian army soldiers take their positions on top and next to their armored vehicles to guard an entrance of Tahrir Square, in Cairo, August 2013.

The White House signaled Wednesday that an announcement is near on whether to withhold an unknown portion of $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt. The Obama administration conducted an extended review of assistance in the wake of the ouster of former Islamist president Mohamed Morsi.

After the Morsi ouster last July, the administration avoided making a formal legal determination that would have described his removal as a coup, which would require a total cutoff of aid to the Egyptian government.

At the time, and in subsequent weeks and months, the White House said it would not be wise or in the interests of the United States to abruptly cut off aid.

However, Washington did suspend delivery of several F-16 fighter jets and it canceled joint exercises with Egypt's military.

Counterterrorism ops

After a lengthy review, U.S. officials speaking anonymously in media reports said a military aid decision has been made, although assistance for counterterrorism operations will be maintained.

Press secretary Jay Carney repeated a White House denial Wednesday of reports of a total aid cutoff. Any announcement, he said, would come after "diplomatic and congressional notifications" are made.

"We have made clear that we're not going to continue as business as usual. That has been, I think, demonstrated by some of the decisions that have already been made, when it comes to certain military systems, but as to the results of this review that the president asked for, I would have to ask you to wait for us to make that announcement pending the necessary notifications," said Carney.

In addition to cooperation with Egypt on counterterrorism, the administration emphasizes the importance of helping to sustain Cairo's commitment to the peace treaty with Israel.

Addressing the U.N. General Assembly last month, Obama said events in Egypt, including the ouster of Morsi, demonstrate how hard transitions in the region will be.

Pending changes

Obama said Egypt's interim government made decisions inconsistent with inclusive democracy, and he outlined how he sees the U.S. relationship with Egypt going forward.

"The United States will maintain a constructive relationship with the interim government that promotes core interests, like the Camp David Accords and counter terrorism. We’ll continue support in areas like education that directly benefit the Egyptian people. But we have not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and our support will depend upon Egypt’s progress in pursuing a more democratic path," he said.

U.S. officials quoted in reports said cuts to military aid could be reversed once Egypt returns to a democratically elected government.

There has been renewed violence in recent days in Egypt, where, after the Morsi ouster, authorities launched an increasingly bloody crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood. Clashes between Brotherhood supporters and security forces have led to at least 1,000 deaths.

The interim government leading Egypt has pledged to hold elections next year. It announced Wednesday that the trial of former president Morsi will begin November 4. He is charged with inciting violence and killing opponents while in office.
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