Mohammed Mursi

Egypt blasts US decision to halt some aid to army-backed government

Washington facing hard choices in responding to ally's domestic crackdown

PUBLISHED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 12:00am
UPDATED : Friday, 11 October, 2013, 2:58am

Egypt yesterday criticised the US decision to halt some aid to the army-backed government following a crackdown on the Muslim Brotherhood that has plunged the country into a violent political crisis.

Washington faces a dilemma in dealing with a major regional ally that controls the strategic Suez Canal and borders Israel but whose army overthrew the first freely elected president, Mohammed Mursi, after mass protests against his rule.

The United States said it would withhold deliveries of tanks, fighter aircraft, helicopters and missiles as well as US$260 million in cash aid, but left some other aid programmes intact.

The US position highlights the dilemma and also exposes differences with key Gulf ally Saudi Arabia, which had welcomed Mursi's removal and has lavished extensive financial support to the new government.

It also raises the question of where Egypt, the second largest recipient of US aid after Israel, could now turn for more military aid.

"The decision was wrong. Egypt will not surrender to American pressure and is continuing its path towards democracy as set by the roadmap," Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty told a private Egyptian radio station Radio FM.

The decision was made pending progress on democracy and human rights, but the State Department said it would continue military support for counter terrorism, counter-proliferation and security in the Sinai Peninsula. It would also continue to provide funding in areas such as education, health and private sector development.

The army ousted Mursi in July, installed an interim government and presented a political "roadmap" it promised would lead to fair elections.

The Brotherhood refuses to work with the military.

Egypt's security forces have cracked down hard on the Brotherhood since Mursi's overthrow, killing hundreds and then arresting scores from the group. Mursi has been held in a secret location since his ousting. He is due to face trial on November 4 on charges of inciting violence, in a move that is likely to further inflame tensions between the army and the Brotherhood.

The army-backed government also declared a state of emergency and imposed a curfew. A court order has banned the Brotherhood.