The United States is reviewing whether to cut military and development aid to Egypt, White House Press Secretary Robert Gibbs said Friday (Jan. 28). The decision would be partly based on the reaction of Egyptian government forces to ongoing public protests against the regime.
U.S. President Barack Obama spoke with Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak Friday late afternoon after the latter asked his government to resign. Mubarak on Saturday named intelligence chief Omar Suleiman as the country’s first vice president since 1981.
“We are watching very closely the actions of the government, the police, of all the security forces, and all those in the military,” Gibbs told reporters at his daily press briefing 3 p.m. EST, adding that “their actions would affect our review of assistance.”
Echoing a message by U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, Gibbs urged the Egyptian government and security forces to exercise restraint in responding to the street protests.
“We are deeply concerned about the use of violence by Egyptian police and security forces against protesters, and we call on the Egyptian government to do everything in its power to restrain the security forces,” Clinton said earlier in the day. “At the same time, protesters should also refrain from violence and express themselves peacefully.”
The U.S. provides more than USD1.3 billion in annual military aid to Egypt, and the U.S. Agency for International Development has spent more than USD28 billion in the country since 1975.
The U.S. has been cautious in its response to the crisis in Egypt, an important ally in the Middle Eastern and North African region. Obama administration officials have been urging Mubarak’s government to bend to the protesters’ demand for economic and political reform but have stopped short of endorsing calls for Mubarak’s ouster, which could shake the already unstable region.
The protests in Egypt come just over a week after protests in Tunisia turned violent and prompted the ouster of President Zine El Abidine Ben Ali.
The Working Group on Egypt, a nonpartisan initiative on Egyptian politics and political reform, is urging the Obama administration to support free and fair presidential and parliamentary polls in the African country “as soon as possible.”
The group also wants the state of emergency to be immediately lifted.