NGO spat over: US could resume military aid to Egypt

All is well that ends ...

WASHINGTON - The US State Department said Friday it could decide by next week whether to approve the resumption of military aid to Egypt that has been under review over human rights concerns.
US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton must certify whether Egypt is complying with a new US law testing Egypt's progress toward democracy or whether to waive the requirement on national security grounds.
"So no decisions have been made yet on these issues," State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland told reporters.
"We do not anticipate making any decisions this week, this week being nearly over. She (Clinton) may... be in a position to make these decisions by the middle of next week," Nuland said.
To inform the decision, she said, Clinton and staff are consulting with members of Congress, Egyptians inside and outside of government, as well as members of US research institutes and non-government organizations (NGOs).
Clinton has said more than $1 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, which has underpinned US ties to Egypt for three decades and cemented Egypt's 1979 peace with Israel, was under review over its crackdown on pro-democracy groups.
In December, Cairo prosecutors stormed the offices of the US-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as part of a probe into allegations of illegal foreign funding.
They were among 17 offices of local and international NGOs raided as part of what analysts saw as a wider drive by Egypt's interim military rulers to silence dissent after criticism of its human rights record.
In January, Egypt then barred some US members of the NGOs -- which are seeking to promote Egypt's fledgling democracy -- from leaving the country and a number of them took refuge at the US embassy.
But tensions between Cairo and Washington eased this month when Egypt allowed six American and seven other foreign NGO members to leave the country after they posted bail.
But the trial of 43 defendants -- 16 Egyptians and 27 foreign nationals -- is set to resume on April 10. They are accused of receiving illicit foreign funds to operate unlicensed NGOs.
US legislation, part of a 2012 bill signed by President Barack Obama on December 23, offers Egypt $250 million in economic aid, and provides the authority to forgive up to $500 million of debt to the United States.
It also provides for $1.5 billion in annual military aid, but Egypt's military leaders must convince Clinton they are backing the transition to civilian rule, or she can waive the restriction on national security grounds.