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Thursday, 15 August, 2002, 20:10 GMT 21:10 UK
US to withhold extra Egypt aid
Saad Eddin Ibrahim
Ibrahim's imprisonment was condemned globally
United States President George W Bush has said he will seek to withhold additional aid from Egypt to protest the prosecution of a prominent Egyptian civil rights campaigner.

Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak
Human rights groups claim Mubarak is attempting to limit political debate

University professor Saad Eddin Ibrahim, who holds a US as well as an Egyptian passport, was sentenced last month to seven years in jail after a judge found him guilty of embezzlement and "tarnishing" Egypt's image.

Egyptian diplomats in Washington were informed of the decision on Thursday.

"We confirmed to them that we're not contemplating any additional funds for Egypt at this time," State Department spokesman Philip Reeker told reporters.

"We also reiterated the concerns regarding the verdict in the case of Dr Ibrahim."

Egypt has responded angrily to the information.

"We do not give in to pressure," Foreign Minister Ahmed Maher said.

Debate 'stifled'

It is a blow to the Egyptian Government, which had hoped to receive a top up of $130 million in aid from the US in addition to the almost $2 billion it already receives, according to the Washington Post.

But Egyptian news agency Mena in a commentary said that the country "does not need a preacher to guide it to the way it should protect human rights".

Mr Ibrahim was first found guilty last year and given a seven-year jail term after an Egyptian appeals court ordered a retrial following heavy international criticism.

Human rights groups said the case against Mr Ibrahim - an outspoken civil rights and democracy activist - was aimed at limiting political debate in Egypt.

The US had become increasingly angry at what was perceived as President Mubarak's attempts to strengthen his grip on organisations which attempted to expand political debate in the country.

This is despite the US Government itself facing criticism for not going far enough to encourage pro-democracy movements in the Arab world.

Egypt had been lobbying the US Government for extra funds to fight the war on terror and had pointed to US Congress' recent decision to grant Israel an extra $200 million as incentive for it to receive similar treatment.

See also:

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