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US Defense Secretary Visits Cairo Amid Tensions



U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel arrived in Egypt Wednesday, following stops in Israel, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

Hagel's visit to Cairo comes amid political tensions between Egypt's mostly secular opposition and its Islamist leaders. Low-key meetings with President Mohamed Morsi and Defense Minister Abdel-Fattah al-Sisi are expected to cover defense ties, security concerns, and regional developments.

The U.S. has been working to keep channels open with Egypt's new government since Mr. Morsi took office last June. The countries have had close ties since former Egyptian President Anwar Sadat signed the U.S.-brokered Camp David Accords with Israel in 1978.



The U.S. and its regional allies are concerned that political and economic turmoil in Egypt could worsen instability in the Middle East.

Clashes in Suez and Port Said earlier this year raised fears of a possible disruption of shipping in the Suez Canal while lawlessness in the Sinai threatens security along the Israeli border.

Hagel said Tuesday that the U.S. and its allies need to remain "closer than ever" as challenges in the Middle East become increasingly complicated.

His comments came as he met with Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu during the first stop on a five-nation tour.

The trip follows a U.S. government announcement that it would permit the sale of $10 billion worth of advanced American weapons to Israel, Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates.

After three days of talks in Israel, Hagel traveled to Jordan and Saudi Arabia for meetings Tuesday that included discussion of the situation in Syria and challenges related to Iran's nuclear program.

Hagel is scheduled to travel from Egypt to the United Arab Emirates to close out the trip.

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