CAIRO - Egypt's airport authorities have been advised that a travel ban on American pro-democracy activists has been lifted, airport sources said on Thursday, opening the way for defusing a row that has threatened $1.3 billion of US military aid to Egypt.

A senior judge and other judicial sources said on Wednesday that Egypt had decided to lift the ban barring the departure of the US citizens who work for non-governmental organizations (NGOs) that Egypt says have received foreign funds illegally.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Wednesday she had no confirmation that the ban was lifted but said she expected the NGO row to be resolved "in the very near future."

"Instructions have arrived to lift the travel ban on the accused Americans in the case of foreign financing to allow them to leave should they turn up to travel," one of the sources at Cairo international airport said, adding they could leave at any time and on any flight.

Airport sources had said late on Wednesday that a US military plane had arrived from Cyprus to take the Americans out. It was not immediately clear when any of the Americans would leave or if they would choose commercial flights.

Sixteen of the 43 people facing charges are Americans. Seven Americans are in Egypt and some of those have sought refuge in the US embassy.

The US embassy had no comment on the case.

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