U.S. President Barack Obama on Monday proposed $1.3 billion in military aid for Egypt in fiscal 2013, asking Congress to maintain the annual aid level of recent years despite the ongoing crisis triggered by an Egyptian probe of American democracy activists.
Obama made the proposal in his budget plan for fiscal 2013 which begins on Oct. 1, the State Department said. The amounts must be approved by Congress, where some lawmakers have called for cutting off all aid to Egypt if it does not drop accusations against the American activists and lift the travel ban on them, according to Reuters.
Nineteen Americans were among 43 foreign and local activists banned from travel and referred to criminal court on accusations of working for organizations operating in Egypt without proper licenses and which had received foreign funds illegally.
Washington asked Egypt to lift the travel ban on the U.S. citizens, some of whom have taken refuge at the U.S. embassy. Both the White House and Congress have warned that the crackdown could threaten Cairo’s $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said the warning for 2012 remained in place, noting that U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton had to certify first whether Egypt is making progress toward democracy.
But she added: “Let’s hope we’re still not in this situation in 2013.”
“We do have concerns that if we can’t resolve this situation it could have implications for the whole relationship with Egypt, including what we would like to do together and how we would like to support them.”
Cairo prosecutors backed by police in December stormed the offices of the U.S.-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as part of a probe into the NGO’s alleged illegal foreign funding.
They were among 17 offices of local and international NGOs raided.
The crackdown was part of a wider campaign by Egypt’s military rulers to silence dissent after months of criticism of its human rights record, analysts said.
Obama, meanwhile, on Monday proposed a fund of $770 million to boost political and other reforms in Arab countries undergoing pro-democracy revolutions, according to AFP.
The new fund is part of $51.6 billion set aside for the State Department and the U.S. Agency for International Development in 2013, which accounts for just one percent of the entire government’s budget, the State Department said.
The department highlighted “$770 million for a new Middle East and North Africa Incentive Fund to respond strategically to historic changes taking place across the region.”
“The fund will incentivize long-term economic, political and trade reforms — key pillars of stability — by supporting governments that demonstrate a commitment to undergo meaningful change and empower their people,” it said.
It did not identify countries which will receive the funds, but the United States last year gave tens of millions of dollars to Egypt and Tunisia after their leaders were overthrown in pro-democracy revolutions.