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U.S. senator says Egypt working to resolve NGO issue

(Xinhua)

08:51, February 21, 2012

CAIRO, Feb. 20 (Xinhua) -- Visiting U.S. Senator John McCain said Monday here that Egypt's ruling Supreme Council of the Armed Forces (SCAF) is working diligently to handle the NGOs issues in which American organizations were involved.

The relations between Cairo and Washington have recently strained over the cases in which 43 civil society workers, including 19 Americans, were accused of running NGOs in Egypt without license or receiving funds illegally for political activities. The accused will stand trial on Sunday and may face a penalty of up to five years in prison.

Washington has earlier threatened to stop its military and economic aid to Egypt following Egypt's launching of the NGOs campaign, while the Egyptian authorities snubbed the threats, although the United States offers more than 1 billion U.S. dollars of military and economic aids to Egypt every year.

"Egypt must remain a friend," said McCain, who is leading a U.S. Congress delegation to visit Egypt.

On Monday, McCain met with SCAF head Hussein Tantawi as well as officials from the Muslim Brotherhood's political Freedom and Justice Party to discuss the NGO issue along with other matters in bilateral ties.

In a business conference held at the American Commerce Chamber in Egypt on Monday, McCain noted that the United States should catch up with the changes that have been made in the nature of the U.S.-Egyptian partnership.

But the U.S. senator still affirmed that his country will support Egypt economically, politically and militarily, as well as the private sector that could lead to the creation of more job opportunities to the youth. He added that the U.S. major companies have desire to invest in Egypt and to enter strongly the Egyptian markets.

According to some analysts, the NGO dispute is a "matter of swap" between the two sides. "What can be seen from the behind curtains is that America presses on the armed forces to leave the power, and the SCAF ejected the NGO card off to push the pressure away," said Gamal Zahran, a political studies professor of Port Said University.

"The Egyptian authorities try to gain the sympathy of the Egyptians who are demanding they leave power immediately, so they perform a patriotism show," he added.

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