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Egypt's Sisi orders review of law curbing NGOs

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi attends a signing ceremony following a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in the Black Sea resort of Sochi, Russia October 17, 2018. Pavel Golovkin/Pool via REUTERS/File Photo

CAIRO (Reuters) - Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah al-Sisi ordered on Tuesday a review of a law long criticized by human rights groups that restricts the work of non-governmental organizations (NGOs).

Rights groups say the May 2017 law effectively bans their work and makes it harder for charities to operate. Officials have said it is necessary, arguing that foreign-funded NGOs threaten national security.

Sisi told a youth forum in the Red Sea resort of Sharm al-Sheikh that a new committee would “draft a comprehensive vision for amending the law regulating NGOs and civil society in Egypt”.

On Monday Sisi said he believed in the work of NGOs and said he wanted the law governing their work to be “balanced”.

While critics have said that the law mainly targets rights groups, even apolitical charities have complained it restricts them at a time when subsidy cuts and tax increases have made it harder for Egyptians to make ends meet.

Charities have long played an important role in feeding, clothing and providing healthcare and education in a country where millions live on less than $2 a day.

Reporting by Yousef Saba; Editing by Gareth Jones