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CAIRO — Stoking tensions with Washington, an Egyptian Cabinet minister has accused the United States of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the country following last year’s ouster of longtime leader and U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak.

According to comments published in state-owned newspapers on Tuesday, International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga made the remarks in testimony she gave in October to judges investigating allegations the groups used foreign funds to foment unrest.

Ms. Aboul Naga, a leftover from the Mubarak regime who has served in three interim governments formed since his ouster, has been leading the crackdown on the foreign groups.

Authorities last week referred 43 employees of nonprofit groups, including at least 16 Americans, to trial before a criminal court. The Americans include Sam LaHood, son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

All 43 are banned from travel. No date has been set for their trial.

The crisis has soured relations between Egypt and the United States, which has threatened to cut off aid to Egypt - a total of $1.5 billion a year in military and economic assistance - if the issue is not resolved.

The release of Ms. Aboul Naga’s testimony four months after she gave it suggests that Egypt may not be willing, at least for now, to ease tensions with the U.S.


Israel OKs tourist center in tense Arab area

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government says it has given a hard-line Jewish group permission to build a new archaeological center in a tense Arab neighborhood in East Jerusalem.

Interior Ministry spokeswoman Efrat Orbach said Tuesday that a Jerusalem planning committee approved the project this week. The public has 60 days to appeal.

The center is to be built in Silwan, an impoverished neighborhood next to Jerusalem’s Old City. Arab residents often clash with Israeli police and guards who protect 80 Jewish families who settled there.

The Palestinians claim East Jerusalem for their future capital. They say the development plan aims to cement Israel’s control over the area.

The center is planned by Elad, a pro-settler group that runs archaeological digs in Silwan.

From wire dispatches and staff reports