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Friday, February 11, 2011     GET REAL

House calls for review of military aid to Egypt

WASHINGTON — House Foreign Affairs Committee chairwoman Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, warning of an Islamic takeover, has called for a review of American military aid to Egypt.


Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said President Barack Obama and his predecessors blocked efforts by Congress for accountability for the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Egypt.

"Successive administrations have repeatedly opposed and obstructed efforts by members of Congress to require accountability in ensuring Egypt met conditions for its economic assistance," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said.

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In hearings on Feb. 9-10, the House chairwoman warned of an Islamic takeover of Egypt, Middle East Newsline reported. Ms. Ros-Lehtinen urged the administration against supporting the inclusion of the Muslim Brotherhood in any government that would follow President Hosni Mubarak.

"The Muslim Brotherhood had nothing to do with driving these protests, and they and other extremists must not be allowed to hijack the movement toward democracy and freedom in Egypt," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said.

The Florida Republican said the administration failed to leverage U.S. military and economic aid to support pro-democracy forces in Egypt or Lebanon. Instead, the White House focused on what the chairwoman termed "short-term, personality-based stability — stability that was never really all that stable, as the events of recent weeks demonstrates."

Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said Washington also failed to use its $750 million in military aid to influence Lebanon. Instead, the administration was said to have enabled Hizbullah, Iran and Syria to dictate events in Lebanon.

"Washington has also persisted in continuing to provide assistance to a Lebanese government in which Hizbullah essentially had veto power," Ms. Ros-Lehtinen said. "This included security assistance to the Lebanese armed forces, despite longstanding concerns over whether such aid could directly or indirectly benefit Hizbullah. Even now, when the Lebanese government has been overthrown, the United States has still failed to indicate that it will cut off assistance to a proxy government for Iran, Syria, and Hizbullah."

The criticism was issued as both Congress and U.S. officials have assessed that Egypt could no longer be counted upon as a strategic ally. The House chairwoman called on the administration to draft a strategic plan for the Middle East to protect allies and counter Iran and Syria.

"Such criteria should include: renouncing violent extremism, upholding the rule of law, and recognizing and enforcing Egypt's international commitments, including its nonproliferation obligations and its peace agreement with the Jewish state of Israel," Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen said. "We face an emergency in Lebanon and Egypt that could spread to the broader Middle East."

A key question was U.S. policy toward the Egyptian military. Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen suggested the transformation of U.S. military aid to civilian aid meant to support democracy in Egypt.

"What is the administration's view on continuing security assistance to Egypt for stability and compliance with its international commitments and preparation for democratic transition, and simultaneously transferring economic aid currently going to the Mubarak government to pro-democracy groups for organizing and preparing for elections?" Ms. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen asked.

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