Key US Republican seeks 'punitive action' on Egypt

WASHINGTON- A top Republican lawmaker called for "punitive action" Thursday against Egyptian officials for the crackdown on US democracy advocates, specifically targeting its minister of international cooperation.
"The Egyptian government's actions cannot be taken lightly and warrant punitive actions against certain Egyptian officials, and reconsideration of US assistance to Egypt," Representative Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said.

"While the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces bears ultimate responsibility for this strain in relations, the minister of international cooperation should not be exempt from punitive actions," she said at a hearing, referring to Fayza Abul Naga.
It was the latest in a drumbeat of congressional outrage over raids on pro-democracy groups in Egypt, and charges recommended against American activists.
US lawmakers from both parties have stepped up their warnings that Egypt's crackdown will force a review of the $1.3 billion in US military aid to the longtime Middle Eastern ally if the crisis is not quickly resolved.
"I truly believe we are approaching a precipice beyond which our bilateral relations could suffer permanent damage," Democratic Representative Gary Ackerman said Wednesday.
Ros-Lehtinen, for her part, warned that under the circumstances continued US assistance to Egypt sends "a number of unacceptable messages" -- that Washington would stand by and bankroll assaults on pro-democracy protests, backsliding on Egypt's peace treaty, and similar behavior by other countries.
At a hearing, the heads of American non-governmental organizations whose offices in Egypt were raided December 29 said the crackdown may have been instigated by Abul Naga as part of a fight for control of US aid.
David Kramer, the head of Freedom House, a human rights group that was hit in the crackdown, said Abul Naga has insisted on full control over non-military US aid and resented a US decision to shift $20 million in funding for Egypt's elections directly to American NGOs.
But, said Lorne Craner, president of the International Republican Institute, "It's gone way beyond her."
The military and former regime holdovers were taking advantage of the anti-American sentiment whipped up by the controversy to attack and isolate moderates at the center of last year's uprising against Hosni Mubarak, they said.

Thursday, February 16th 2012

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