UPDATE 1-Clinton sees US-Egypt NGO issue resolved soon
WASHINGTON Feb 29 (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday she believed the United States and Egypt will soon resolve a dispute over U.S. pro-democracy workers accused of violating Egyptian laws.
"We believe we will resolve this issue concerning our NGOs in the very near future. That is my best assessment sitting here today," Clinton told U.S. lawmakers when asked about the case, which involves 43 foreign and Egyptian workers for non-governmental organizations.
U.S. officials have made clear that the $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt has been put at risk by the case, in which the NGO workers have been accused of receiving illegal foreign funds. The 43 include 16 U.S. citizens, seven of whom are in Egypt.
The workers are also alleged to have carried out political activities unrelated to their work and failing to obtain necessary operating licenses. The NGOs say they have long sought to register in Egypt and describe the crackdown as part of a wave of repression against civil society by the generals who took power after President Hosni Mubarak's overthrow last year.
If the case drags on, it could cause longer-term damage in U.S. relations with Egypt, which has been a pillar of Washington's alliances in the Arab world and, along with Jordan, is the only Arab country to have a peace treaty with Israel. (Reporting By Arshad Mohammed; Editing by Jackie Frank and Eric Beech)