Some senior members of the U.S. Congress are calling for a halt in foreign aid to Egypt as a way to hasten President Hosni Mubarak’s exit from power amid continuing protests against his three-decade rule.
Senator Patrick Leahy, the chairman of the panel that controls foreign aid, said he’s prepared to stop all U.S. financial assistance to Egypt -- which topped $1.5 billion last year -- unless Mubarak steps aside immediately and allows a transitional government to take over.
“If he doesn’t leave, there will not be foreign aid; I mean, it’s as simple as that,” Leahy, a Vermont Democrat, told Bloomberg Television in an interview yesterday. U.S. money “will not go to the Mubarak administration,” Leahy said, adding, “that’s a pipeline that can easily be turned off.”
Mubarak’s announcement earlier this week that he wouldn’t run in elections scheduled for September failed to quell protests against his government, and stoked the anger of demonstrators who have since stepped up their demands for his quick departure.
Leahy has been joined by Representative Lloyd Doggett, a Texas Democrat, in pushing to use the only degree of control lawmakers have on foreign policy matters -- the power of the purse -- to prod Mubarak off stage.
Doggett, a nine-term House member who previously sought to limit aid to Egypt, wrote to President Barack Obama yesterday asking him to make it clear to Mubarak and his government that, “Egypt will not receive one more cent of American money until he begins the peaceful, orderly transition to a democratically elected government today.”
The U.S. “must send the unmistakable message to Mubarak and all dictators who are watching our response that we will not continue to waste money propping up his tyranny,” Doggett wrote.
Some lawmakers have been reluctant to use the threat of ending U.S. aid as a lever to force Mubarak from power. Representative Nita Lowey of New York, the top Democrat on the House subcommittee that controls foreign assistance, hasn’t called for such a move.
In a statement last week on the turmoil in Egypt, Lowey didn’t mention Mubarak, saying that his country and the U.S. had been “partners” in the Middle East peace process, and that it was in the U.S. interest that “Egypt remain a strong ally.”
Leahy said his preference would be to redirect the aid to a new group of leaders.
“What I’d like to be able to say is, ‘We’re in a position to help the transitional government that has democratic values, believes in democracy, but also believes in helping its own people,’” Leahy said.
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