By Arshad Mohammed
WASHINGTON Oct 8 The United States is leaning
toward withholding most military aid to Egypt except to promote
counter-terrorism, security in the Sinai Peninsula that borders
Israel, and other such priorities, a U.S. official said on
The official said U.S. President Barack Obama had not made a
final decision on the issue, which has vexed U.S. officials as
they balance a desire to be seen promoting democracy and rights
with a desire to keep up some cooperation with Egypt's military.
The military on July 3 overthrew President Mohamed Mursi,
who emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood movement to become
Egypt's first freely elected president last year, following the
end of Hosni Mubarak's 30-year rule in February 2011.
Mursi supporters and security forces have repeatedly clashed
since, including on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the
military took power, with state media reporting 57 people dead.
After Mursi's ouster, the Obama administration said it would
suspend about $585 million in military assistance to Egypt
pending a wider policy review.
The U.S. official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said
the Obama administration was now leaning toward continuing to
withhold most of that, with the exceptions described above.
The official said the United States was also leaning toward
continuing some economic aid to Egypt, but chiefly funds that go
to non-governmental groups rather than to the government itself.
A second U.S. official, also speaking on condition of
anonymity, said a decision on the aid was likely to be made
public by the end of the week, although he noted that an
announcement has been repeatedly postponed.
In Cairo, the Foreign Ministry said on Wednesday it had not
received any official word from Washington on the issue.
"The relationship between Egypt and the United States is one
of partnership, and not one of donor and recipient," said
Foreign Ministry spokesman Badr Abdelatty.
Egypt for decades has been among the largest recipients of
U.S. military and economic aid because of its 1979 peace treaty
with U.S. ally Israel, which agreed to withdraw from the Sinai
Peninsula it seized from Egypt in 1967 as a result of the pact.
The United States has long provided Egypt with about $1.55
billion in annual aid, including $1.3 billion in military
The removal of Mursi has left Obama with an acute dilemma:
whether to get tough with the army for toppling a democratically
elected president, albeit an Islamist who had few friends in
Washington, or whether to acquiesce in his overthrow.
U.S. officials have said there has been a sharp debate
within the administration for months over the issue, with one
saying that the Pentagon had argued for continuing military aid,
while others urged a significant reduction.
At the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 24, Obama appeared to
split the difference, saying the United States would maintain
constructive ties with Egypt's interim government despite its
anti-democratic moves - including an emergency law and
restrictions on opposition parties, the media and civil society.
He also suggested that some military aid would depend on the
interim government embracing a more inclusive democracy.
"Going forward, the United States will maintain a
constructive relationship with the interim government that
promotes core interests like the Camp David Accords and
counter-terrorism," he said, referring to the U.S.-brokered
agreements that led to the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
"We'll continue support in areas like education that
directly benefit the Egyptian people," he added. "But we have
not proceeded with the delivery of certain military systems, and
our support will depend upon Egypt's progress in pursuing a more
Earlier on Tuesday, CNN had quoted a U.S. official as saying
that an "accumulation of events," including the recent violence,
had led to the decision on a "full suspension" of aid, a report
the White House denied.
"The reports that we are halting all military assistance to
Egypt are false," Caitlin Hayden, a spokeswoman for the White
House National Security Council, said in a statement. "We will
announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in
the coming days, but as the president made clear at (the U.N.
General Assembly), that assistance relationship will continue."
The Pentagon declined all comment.
Vanessa Murray, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Defense Security
Cooperation Agency, which oversees foreign military aid and
sales, earlier said there had been no policy change on Egypt.
Officials at General Dynamics Corp, which makes M1A1
tank kits for Egypt, and Boeing Co, which is building
Apache helicopters for the Arab country, said late on Tuesday
they had not been notified of any decision to halt military aid.
There was no immediate comment from Lockheed Martin Corp
, which is building F-16 fighter jets for Egypt.
Shipments of four F-16s have already been halted temporarily,
and eight more jets were due to be delivered in December.
Two former government officials familiar with foreign
military sales have said the Obama administration is likely to
curtail certain high-visibility weapons sales, such as the 12
Lockheed Martin Corp F-16s due to be delivered to Egypt this
year, to send a message to the military. The planes could be
fairly easily adapted for sale to other countries, they said.