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Egyptians cancel meetings with U.S. lawmakers after aid warnings


WestVirginiaRebel

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WestVirginiaRebel

us-egypt-usa-whitehouse-idUSTRE8151YX20120206Reuters:

(Reuters) - An Egyptian military delegation abruptly cancelled its meetings with U.S. lawmakers to return to Cairo on Monday after warnings from both Congress and the White House that Egypt's crackdown on non-governmental groups could threaten its $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.

A spokesman for the Egyptian Embassy confirmed that the delegation had cancelled its meetings this week with U.S. lawmakers, but gave no reason.

Last week, the Egyptian army delegation met State Department officials who outlined both the U.S. position on the pro-democracy non-governmental groups and the new conditions that Congress recently imposed on American military assistance.

Nineteen Americans are among 40 foreign and Egyptian activists whose cases have been referred to criminal court by Egypt's army-backed government. A number of the U.S. citizens involved have sought refuge in the American Embassy.

The resulting dispute has strained ties between Cairo and Washington, which backed the overthrow last year of Egypt's longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak, upon whom it relied for decades to uphold a peace treaty with Israel vital to U.S. strategy in the Middle East.

The Egyptian delegation had been scheduled to see Senators Carl Levin and John McCain, the Democratic chairman and ranking Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, among others in Congress this week.

Senate aides said they did not know why the meetings were cancelled.

The U.S. senator who wrote the conditions placed on U.S. military aid to Egypt this year warned that "things will be a lot worse" for Egypt when Congress makes aid decisions for 2013 if Cairo does not demonstrate a commitment to democracy.

Senator Patrick Leahy, Democratic chairman of the Senate foreign aid subcommittee, suggested that he would not favor continuing U.S. military aid to Egypt, even with conditions, if it continued its crackdown on local and U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups.

"I'm not going to ... say, keep on funding this, funding money that reflects the assumption that they are committed to democracy, if they are not," Leahy told Reuters at the Senate.

"If they think I took a strong stand this year - if things don't improve, next year will be a lot worse," he said.

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Ooh, Leaky Leahy's mad.

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