US official: Egypt efforts at countering arms smuggling improved

Under pressure from the US and Israel, Egypt has significantly improved its efforts at detecting and destroying tunnels used for smuggling weapons across its border into the Gaza Strip, a US congressman said Monday. US Rep. Steve Israel, a New York Democrat, said Egypt's agreement to work with US trainers and spend $23 million (€16 million) in American military aid on technical equipment to detect the tunnels could assuage Washington's concerns about the seriousness of Cairo's efforts. The new initiatives - which the lawmaker announced Sunday after meeting with Egyptian President Mubarak - followed a campaign in the US Congress to withhold some of the $1.3 billion (€880 million) in military aid to Egypt until the government makes a number of reforms, including stopping arms smuggling to Hamas, which seized control of Gaza in June. Israel has also blamed Egypt for not doing enough to prevent weapons from reaching Gaza, an accusation that has been denied by Cairo and has raised tension between the two countries.