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US: Egypt agrees to halt rights group raids
Egyptian officials assure the US they will stop raids on pro-democracy and human rights groups, state department says.
Last Modified: 30 Dec 2011 20:37
German NGO, Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was one of the rights group raided by the Egyptian authorities [EPA]

Egyptian officials have assured the US that they will halt raids on pro-democracy and human rights organisations and return property seized during a crackdown in Cairo.

US Defence Secretary Leon Panetta and the US ambassador in Egypt, Anne Patterson, spoke with top Egyptian officials
including the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Friday to press US demands that the non-governmental organisations, or NGOs, be allowed to resume normal operations.
 
"The ambassador has sought and received Egyptian leadership assurances that the raids will cease and property will be returned immediately," US State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said in emailed comments.

Panetta spoke with the leader of the military council, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi to convey his concern over the raid, Defence Department spokesman George Little said.

"After two successful rounds of parliamentary elections, the secretary emphasised that it is critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition," Little said.

"The secretary reaffirmed the importance of the US-Egyptian security relationship, and made clear that the
United States remains committed to the strategic partnership and stands ready to cooperate with Egypt as it continues its democratic transition."

Washington reacted sharply on Thursday after Egyptian police raided the offices of 17 organisations, including several that receive US backing, and hinted it could review the $1.3bn in annual US military aid to Cairo if the raids continued.

Among those targeted in Thursday's raid were the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, which are loosely associated with the US Democratic and Republican political parties and receive US government funding for programmes aimed at promoting democracy in Egypt and elsewhere.

Germany summons ambassador

Earlier on Friday, Germany summoned the Egyptian ambassador in Berlin to protest over what it called an "unacceptable" raid on the Cairo office of a German political foundation among those searched on Thursday. 


The ruling military said it is investigating how the groups are funded [Al Jazeera]

"The Egyptian ambassador was summoned to the foreign ministry this morning," Andreas Peschke, the spokesman, told reporters in a news briefing. 

"Our deep concern in light of yesterday's search of the Konrad Adenauer Foundation was conveyed to him in the clearest terms. He was told that in our view it is unacceptable for the foundation's work to be hindered in this way."

Peschke said Guido Westerwelle, the German foreign minister, expected Egyptian officials to allow the foundation to resume its work "immediately".

He called the raid a clear violation of a joint German-Egyptian government agreement signed in August for a "transformation partnership" to promote the development of democracy and civil society in Egypt.

Peschke added that Germany intended to keep providing financial support for democratic reforms in Egypt but "would re-examine this if progress is not made".

The Konrad Adenauer Foundation condemned the search as well, calling it "completely incomprehensible" in a statement. 

'Repressive tools'

Several Egyptian rights groups on Friday accused the country's ruling military council of using "repressive tools" of the
deposed government in waging an "unprecedented campaign" against pro-democracy organisations.

The groups' joint statement came just hours after security forces stormed offices of 10 rights organisations, including several based in the United States.

The Egyptian interior ministry said the raids were part of an investigation into foreign funding of rights groups. 

Friday's statement, signed by 28 Egyptian rights groups, said the raids were part of a clampdown against leaders of the uprising and were an attempt to "liquidate" the revolution.

"The military council is using Mubarak's authoritarian and repressive tools ... in an even more dangerous and uglier way," the statement read. The raids "are an unprecedented campaign aimed at covering up big failures of the military council in managing the transition period".

Source:
Al Jazeera and agencies
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