Egypt-US relations take further strain

1166.jpgCairo – Egyptian Foreign Minister Ahmed Abul Gheit on Thursday hit back at the United States for tying millions of dollars in military aid to Egypt’s human rights record.“Egypt cannot accept to abandon its sovereign rights, (or accept) any encroachment on the right of the Egyptian people to freedom of choice and independence,” Abul Gheit said in a statement.

The US House of Representatives on Tuesday approved legislation aimed at pressuring Egypt to improve its human rights record by withholding $200-million (about R1,4-billion) in military funds until progress is made, local press reported.

Egypt, a leading recipient of US economic and military aid, has received more than $60-billion since 1979, including $34-billion in foreign military financing credits to buy US materiel and services.

Abul Gheit’s reaction comes amid mounting tension between the United States and ally Egypt over political reform.

Cairo earlier this month reacted angrily to a call by President George Bush to free jailed dissident Ayman Nur, who was sentenced to five years in prison in 2005 for fraud, a charge widely seen as politically motivated.

Abul Gheit at the time said the call amounted to “unacceptable interference” in Egyptian affairs.

On Wednesday, US state department spokesperson Sean McCormack said his country was “deeply concerned” by reports of violence and irregularities in Egypt’s midterm election for parliament’s upper house.

Clashes in Monday’s election left one person dead, and independent observers reported irregularities including the closure of polling stations, barring people from voting, as well as violence.

“These are of deep concern. While the Egyptian government has made some progress in opening up their political system, there have been some troubling incidents,” McCormack told reporters. – Sapa-AFP

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