Egyptian buildup prompts call for aid cut-off

Friday, July 2, 2004

A leading House member has drafted legislation that would phase out U.S. military aid to Egypt by 2008. The legislation would convert the annual military aid of $1.3 billion to economic assistance.

Rep. Tom Lantos, the ranking Democrat in the House International Relations Committee, said he plans to introduce legislation that would end U.S. military aid to Egypt. Lantos said Egypt has engaged in a military build-up even amid a decrease of threats from its neighbors, Middle East Newsline reported.

"I intend to support the Egyptian people by introducing legislation to phase out military assistance for Egypt over the next three years," Lantos said.

Lantos said the $1.3 billion would be converted into economic assistance for Egypt in an effort to maintain stability of that country. He said U.S. policy toward Egypt has been misguided in that since 1999 Washington has reduced economic aid to Cairo while maintaining military assistance.

Egypt has created 11 battle units for the navy, Lantos said, and has procured the Harpoon-2 and fast-attack craft. He said Egyptian exercises have been meant to train the military to launch war against Israel.

"Egyptian military exercises are ominously geared toward an Israeli enemy that doesn't obviously exist," Lantos said. "This is a policy choice."

Lantos said Egypt has not slowed down its military build-up in wake of the toppling of the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq or Libya's announcement that it would eliminate weapons of mass destruction. He said the regime of President Hosni Mubarak has criticized the Libyan decision.

Egypt has been a major non-NATO ally of the United States since 1996. In 2003, the Bush administration approved a $300 million grant to Egypt for its contribution and pledges for cooperation regarding the war in Iraq.

Washington has also pledged to grant Egypt $2 billion in loan guarantees subject to economic reforms.

Copyright 2004 East West Services, Inc.

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