By Deb Riechmann
The Associated Press
WASHINGTON — The United States on Wednesday cut hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to its Mideast ally Egypt, responding to the military ouster last summer of the nation’s first democratically elected president and the crackdown on protesters that has sunk the country into violent turmoil.
While the State Department did not provide a dollar amount of what was being withheld, most of it is linked to military aid. In all, the U.S. provides $1.5 billion in aid each year to Egypt.
Officials said the aid being withheld included 10 Apache helicopters at a cost of more than $500 million, M1A1 tank kits and Harpoon anti-ship missiles. The U.S. also is withholding $260 million in cash assistance to the government until “credible progress” is made toward an inclusive government set up through free and fair elections. The U.S. had already suspended the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets and canceled biennial U.S.-Egyptian military exercises.
In Cairo, military spokesman Col. Ahmed Mohammed Ali declined immediate comment. Before the announcement, Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi, the Egyptian military leader, described his country’s relations with the United States as “strategic” and founded on mutual interests. But he told the Cairo daily, Al-Masry al-Youm, in an interview published on Wednesday that Egypt would not tolerate pressure, “whether through actions or hints.”
Neighboring Israel also has indicated concern. The Israelis consider the U.S. aid to Egypt to be important support for the peace agreement between Egypt and Israel.