Thursday, February 3, 2011

No plans to halt US military aid to Egypt: Pentagon

AFP/Activist Post

WASHINGTON  - The Pentagon on Thursday said it had no plans to halt weapons deliveries to Egypt in coming months despite a popular revolt against President Hosni Mubarak's rule.

While the US administration was examining its economic and military aid to Egypt in light of political upheaval there, military assistance had not been suspended, a spokesman said.

"There's a difference between halting the aid and reviewing it," said Colonel Dave Lapan.

As senior US officers closely monitored fast-moving events in Cairo, Lapan said Egypt's military continued to display "restraint" in the crisis so far.

"To date we have seen them act professionally and with restraint. Again it's a very fluid situation so we're watching every single day," Lapan told reporters.

The White House has suggested that US assistance for Egypt is under review in the face of a wave of street demonstrations demanding Mubarak step down.

Spare parts for F-16 warplanes, coastal patrol ships and fuses for munitions are among items due to be delivered to Egypt in the early part of this year, Lapan said.

The United States has provided tens of billions worth of arms and training to Egypt over more than three decades, with annual defense assistance at $1.3 billion.

Lapan also said the US military had no immediate plans to redeploy its forces in or near Egypt in response to the crisis, but as always the armed forces were carrying out "prudent planning" for all scenarios.

The majority of the more than 600 US troops stationed in Egypt are part of the multinational observer mission in the Sinai, with the remainder providing security at the embassy or working in a defense cooperation office, he said.

A US aircraft carrier, the USS Enterprise, a guided-missile destroyer and other warships are currently in the Mediterranean with tentative plans to sail through the Suez Canal on the way to the Arabian Sea possibly later this month.

US ships in the Arabian Sea back up the war effort in Afghanistan, with fighter jets based on carriers running combat missions for troops on the ground.

Mubarak's government has long provided the US military with access to its air space and safe passage for naval ships through the Suez Canal, which Washington has used to supply troops in the Iraq war.

The US military's top officer, Admiral Mike Mullen, on Wednesday spoke to his counterpart by phone and said in a statement that he had "confidence" in the Egyptian army's ability to provide security for the country and the Suez Canal.

US officials and analysts view the role of Egypt's army as crucial in eventually resolving the crisis, and the administration is hoping that longstanding defense ties with Cairo will provide some leverage.

The White House said Wednesday that US contacts with various levels of the Egyptian armed forces had helped rein in possible violence earlier in the week.

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