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Saudi Funds May Dampen Threat of US Aid Cut to Egypt

The Obama administration is reviewing aid to Egypt's military-led government, hoping to use that assistance to influence events in Cairo. But that leverage may be undermined by Saudi Arabia's vow to make up for any Western aid cuts.

Anger over U.S. aid to Egypt's military has spread from Indonesia... to Washington, where Egyptian-Americans protested outside Egypt's embassy here.

"I want President Obama to do the minimum, to recognize that it’s a coup, to recognize human rights violations that have been going on. To stop acting like nothing’s going wrong. He hasn’t come out, he hasn’t stopped the aid to Egypt," said Hesham Hassanin, an Egyptian-American.

U.S. military aid to Egypt amounts to $1.3 billion per year.

The president's opponents say not cutting off that aid weakens U.S. leadership. Arizona Senator John McCain:

"The United States has influence. But if the United States doesn't use that influence, then it has no influence. So far, the United States has sent a very very mixed message to the people who have caused mayhem in the streets of Cairo and Egypt," said McCain.

Threats to cut U.S. aid may be undermined by Saudi Arabia's promise to cover any losses. Riyadh has said it will stand with Egypt against terrorism, a veiled reference to the Muslim Brotherhood. It says it opposes those who are trying to interfere in Egyptian affairs. Foreign Minister Saud al-Faisal:

"I do not think that pressure on Egypt would work or help in restoring peace and national security," said al-Faisal.

Saudi Arabia is stepping in to help Egypt's military because the United States is not, says former U.S. ambassador Adam Ereli.

"They see two things: A lack of U.S. leadership and a lack of what I would call U.S. constancy," said Ereli.

Ereli says Saudi leaders are reacting to how quickly the United States abandoned long-time ally Hosni Mubarak.

"If you're a long-ruling monarch in the Gulf, or anywhere in the Middle East, you are going, 'Holy Cow! What happened? America, my ally, just threw Hosni Mubarak under the bus," he said. "Am I next?' "

U.S. officials say Washington will base its aid decision on its national security interests. State Department Spokeswoman Jen Psaki:

"We’ve worked with a range of regional partners who have supported different sides or both sides in this - these issues going on in Egypt and will continue to do that. But we’ll make our own decisions here, based on our own national security interests, our own concerns about regional stability," said Psaki.

Egyptian Finance Minister Ahmed Galal says Saudi support insulates Cairo against possible U.S. aid cuts - though some news reports indicate Egypt would be unable to buy American weaponry or military equipment with Saudi money because Washington would block such purchases.