Obama, top aides to discuss Egypt aid cut; Apaches on chopping block

Olivier Knox
Chief Washington Correspondent
Yahoo! News
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President Barack Obama called a meeting of his top national security aides on Tuesday to discuss cutting military aid to Egypt, the White House said after repeatedly denying that the administration had already frozen that assistance in secret.

“Our aid and assistance relationship with Egypt is under a review, but it has not been cut off,” spokesman Josh Earnest told reporters. “A decision to cut off aid would be announced — if it were to be announced — after that review has been completed.”

Amid bloody chaos in Egypt and confusion over U.S. policy towards that longstanding American ally, Earnest confirmed that the president would discuss the crisis with top advisers.

"The president will convene a National Security Council meeting," Earnest said. "At this point, I wouldn't anticipate any major announcements related to our aid assistance in the immediate aftermath of this meeting."

And the spokesman confirmed that the United States was considering withholding 10 Apache helicopters that had been slated for delivery to Egypt his month.

"That's an example of the kind of aid that is currently under review," Earnest said. "A decision about the delivery of those helicopters has not been made at this point, but when it is we'll make an announcement."

Earlier, the Daily Beast reported that the United States had secretly halted aid to Egypt’s military in secret, effectively treating the ouster of democratically elected President Mohammed Morsi as a coup despite publicly refusing to say so.

As part of his response, Earnest underlined that the administration had publicly announced its decision to suspend delivery of F-16 fighters to Egypt and to cancel a biannual joint military exercise known as “Bright Star.”

“The biggest ones have been stopped,” Earnest said, but the Defense Department has announced that “there are some smaller packages that have moved forward” to Egypt’s military during the review.

“It is possible that additional tranches of aid could go out, but that’s something that’s being evaluated on a case by case basis.”

Earnest also scolded Egypt’s military-backed interim government for arresting the leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, which fueled Morsi’s presidential bid, lumping it in with other “politically motivated detentions” that have drawn fire from Washington.

“That is not in line with the standard that we expect other governments to uphold in terms of respecting human rights. It’s certainly not the standard that the Egyptian people expect of their government in terms of upholding basic human rights,” the spokesman said.

Mohammed Badie’s arrest is “the latest in a series of actions the Egyptian government has taken that doesn’t reflect their commitment to an inclusive political process, to respect for basic human rights like the right to protest peacefully,” Earnest said.