WASHINGTON — The US State Department said Monday it would work with Congress to try to unblock some $450 million in economic aid for Egypt, after a lawmaker froze the funds.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland confirmed the US administration had asked Congress to free up the money in two tranches to support the government in Cairo.
But she said there were “concerns” about the plan amid rocky ties between the United States and Egypt, under its new Islamist leader, President Mohamed Morsi.
“We’re obviously going to have to work with the Congress in the coming days and weeks to explain why we think this money is so essential at a time of almost 12 billion (dollars) in budget gap in Egypt,” Nuland told reporters.
“Why we think supporting the democratic trajectory of Egypt in a phased way is in US interests, because we obviously firmly do. And we will continue to work with the Congress on that.”
The money is part of a billion dollars in extra support pledged to Egypt by President Barack Obama last year. It is separate from $1.3 billion in military funding which Washington already provides to Cairo.
Republican congresswoman Kay Granger, who chairs the Appropriations Subcommittee on State and Foreign Relations, on Friday put a “hold” on the application, meaning it could be held up indefinitely.
“This proposal comes to Congress at a point when the US-Egypt relationship has never been under more scrutiny, and rightly so,” Granger said in a statement.
“I am not convinced of the urgent need for this assistance and I cannot support it at this time.”
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Iran probes seized UK-flagged tanker — Britain to hold emergency meeting
ran warned Sunday that the fate of a UK-flagged tanker it seized in the Gulf depends on an investigation, as Britain prepared for an emergency security meeting on Tehran's action.
Iranian authorities impounded the Stena Impero with 23 crew members aboard off the port of Bandar Abbas after the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps seized it Friday in the highly sensitive Strait of Hormuz.
Video footage released by Iran showed the Stena Impero tanker being surrounded by speedboats before troops in balaclavas descend a rope from a helicopter onto the vessel.
In an audio recording of a radio exchange, an Iranian officer can be heard ordering the tanker to change course "immediately".
For Cubans — a day at the beach is no easy task
Cuba's constitution guarantees its people access to its beaches, but many locals are unable to enjoy the island's pristine white sands and crystal clear blue waters.
While foreign tourists flock to such paradisiacal Havana sites as Varadero, which was this year named the second most-beautiful beach in the world by American travel website TripAdvisor, Cubans are typically found elsewhere.
"Not many tourists come here," said 43-year-old Rey Gonzalez, who was enjoying a day at Guanabo, a beach east of the capital.
Guanabo's sand isn't as white and the water not quite as clear as Varadero's, but that mattered little to Gonzalez, who was there with his family.