Nov. 4 (Bloomberg) -- The U.S. Congress shouldn’t restrict aid to Egypt over concerns that the Muslim Brotherhood is regaining political influence after the overthrow of President Hosni Mubarak, a State Department official said.
“Now is not the time to add further uncertainty to the region or disrupt our relationship with Egypt,” Assistant Secretary of State for Political-Military Affairs Andrew Shapiro said in prepared remarks for the Washington Institute for Near East Policy. “Conditioning assistance risks putting our relations with Egypt in a contentious place at the worst possible moment.”
Shapiro’s comments reflect the Obama administration’s concern that a reduction of U.S. aid to Egypt might backfire and strengthen hardline Islamist forces. Members of Congress have expressed concern that the Muslim Brotherhood, Egypt’s largest political organization, and more hardline Islamists might make a comeback in elections after February’s ouster of Mubarak, who had severely restricted the groups.
In addition to about $2 billion a year in military and economic aid to Egypt in exchange for its peace treaty with Israel, the U.S. is considering offering $1.5 billion of assistance for the transition as well as loan guarantees and debt forgiveness.
The Obama administration in June eased the criteria for contact with the Brotherhood, allowing diplomats to deal directly with low-level officials of the organization. The move marked a shift away from a policy that restricted U.S. officials to communicating with members of the Brotherhood who also sit in parliament.
--With assistance from Nicole Gaouette in Washington. Editors: Terry Atlas, Bob Drummond
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