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State Department dances around funding-for-Egypt issue

- The Washington Times - Tuesday, August 20, 2013

The U.S. State Department issued a quick denial to Monday media reports that claimed a halt to funding for Egypt, but then failed to clarify: Is America going to send aid after all?

Spokeswoman Jen Psaki confirmed that $585 million of money that's supposed to go toward Egypt this year is still officially in the "unobligated" category of U.S. budgets, The Telegraph reported. But then she followed that remark by adding that it would be "inaccurate to say that a policy decision has been made" about the funds. The U.S. has until Sept. 30 to close out the budget books and decide, she said, The Telegraph reported.

Still, some in Congress think the aid has stopped, in line with U.S. laws that won't allow funding for nations that oust their leaders via military coups.

A spokesman for Sen. Patrick J. Leahy, Vermont Democrat, told The Daily Beast: "[The senator's] understanding is that aid to the Egyptian military has been halted, as required by law."

Former Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi was ousted by government and military forces on July 3. The Obama administration has gone out of its way to avoid the coup label, and Secretary of State John F. Kerry has stated on numerous occasions that calling the ouster such would be premature. At the same time, the White House has held up delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt, and President Obama canceled military exercises that were planned between American and Egyptian forces.

The United States currently provides $1.23 billion to the country's military and $241 in economic assistance to the government, The Telegraph reported. About $650 million has already been sent to the military, but the fate of the remaining $585 million is up in the air.

Meanwhile, a couple of White House officials seem to be of the same mind as Mr. Leahy.

One unnamed official said to The Daily Beast: "The decision was we're going to avoid saying it was a coup but to stay on the safe side of the law, we are going to act as if the designation has been made for now. By not announcing the decision, it gives the administration the flexibility to reverse it."

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