US official: Washington plans to halt military aid to Egypt

White House denies reports of cutting funds, and says the aid and relationship between the two countries will continue.

Egyptian troops en route to Sinai 370 (photo credit: REUTERS)
Egyptian troops en route to Sinai 370
(photo credit: REUTERS)
WASHINGTON - A US official on Tuesday said the United States was leaning toward withholding most military aid to Egypt except to promote counterterrorism, security in the Sinai Peninsula and other such priorities.
The official said US President Barack Obama had not made a final decision on the issue, which has vexed US officials as they balance a desire to be seen promoting democracy and rights with a desire to keep up some cooperation with Egypt's military.
The White House denied that any change had been made in its policy on aid to Egypt.
"The reports that we are halting all military assistance to Egypt are false. We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days," National Security Council spokeswoman Caitlin Hayden said.
"We will announce the future of our assistance relationship with Egypt in the coming days, but as the president made clear at (the UN General Assembly), that assistance relationship will continue," Hayden said.
The military on July 3 overthrew President Mohamed Morsi, who emerged from Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood movement to become the country's first freely elected president last year after the February 2011 fall of longtime authoritarian ruler Hosni Mubarak.
Morsi supporters and security forces have repeatedly clashed since, including on Sunday, one of the bloodiest days since the military took power, with state media reporting 57 people dead.
After Morsi's ouster, the Obama administration said it would suspend about $585 million in military assistance to Egypt pending a wider policy review.
The US official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the Obama administration was now leaning toward continuing to withhold most of that, with the exceptions described above.
The official said the United States was also leaning toward continuing some economic aid to Egypt, but chiefly funds that go to nongovernmental groups rather than to the government itself.
A second US official, also speaking on condition of anonymity, said a decision on the aid was likely to be made public by the end of the week, although he noted that an announcement has been repeatedly postponed.
Earlier, CNN cited an anonymous US official as saying an "accumulation of events," including the most recent deadly clashes over the weekend, has prompted the decision to fully withhold aid to Egypt.
Egypt for decades has been among the largest recipients of US military and economic aid because of its 1979 peace treaty with US ally Israel, which agreed to withdraw from the Sinai Peninsula it seized from Egypt in 1967 as a result of the pact.
The United States has long provided Egypt with about $1.55 billion in annual aid, including $1.3 billion in military assistance.