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US senator moves to block military aid to Egypt over rights abuses

New chair of Senate Foreign Relations Committee calls for Cairo to  improve governance and rule of law

The decision on 30 September of United States' Senator Ben Cardin, the new chair of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, to threaten to block military aid for Egypt re-opens the debate over human rights abuses committed by President Abdel Fattah el Sisi's government.

Senator Cardin's move comes after the committee's previous chairman, Sen. Bob Menendez, was indicted on corruption charges over accusations that he accepted bribes to help Egypt obtain military aid. The New Jersey Democrat has denied all charges.

'Congress has been clear, through the law, that the government of Egypt's record on a range of critical human rights issues, good governance, and the rule of law must improve if our bilateral relationship is to be sustained,' said Cardin in a statement.

He added that he would 'block future foreign military funds as well as sale of arms to the government of Egypt if it does not take meaningful, and sustainable steps to improve the human rights conditions in its country.'

In September, the Biden administration withheld US$85 million in aid to Egypt out of an annual total of $1.3 billion. Last year, the State Department withheld about 10% of the $1.3bn budget on human rights grounds, with officials briefing that 10% was the most that can be withheld from the annual US military sales grant to Egypt that has been in place since 1979 (Dispatches 21/9/22, Washington makes symbolic cuts to Cairo's military aid).

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