Egypt assures U.S. no more raids on democracy groups

Reuters News
Posted: Dec 30, 2011 1:48 PM
Egypt assures U.S. no more raids on democracy groups

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - Egyptian officials have assured the United States they will halt raids on pro-democracy and human rights groups and return property seized in a crackdown that strained ties with Washington, a senior U.S. official said on Friday.

The U.S. ambassador in Egypt, Anne Patterson, spoke again with top Egyptian officials including members of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces on Friday to press U.S. demands that the non-governmental organizations (NGOs) be allowed to resume normal operations, the official said.

"The ambassador has sought and received Egyptian leadership assurances that the raids will cease and property will be returned immediately," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity.

The United States reacted sharply on Thursday after Egyptian police raided the offices of 17 non-governmental groups, including several that receive U.S. backing, and hinted it could review the $1.3 billion in annual U.S. military aid to Cairo if the raids continue.

Egypt's official MENA news agency said the raid was part of a probe into foreign funding of civil society groups, which helped drive the protests that toppled President Hosni Mubarak in February and have been frequent critics of the army's response to continued street unrest.

Among those targeted in Thursday's raid were the International Republican Institute and National Democratic Institute, which are loosely associated with the U.S. Democratic and Republican political parties and receive U.S. government funding for programs aimed at promoting democracy in Egypt and elsewhere.

The U.S. official said Patterson had agreed to participate in a dialogue with Egyptian officials "to resolve the underlying issues related to the operation of U.S.-supported NGOs in a transparent, open manner."

"These NGOs should be allowed to operate freely as they do in countries around the world in support of democracy and free elections," the official said.

Egypt's ruling generals have pledged to stand aside by mid-2012, but many democracy activists say the military is eager to preserve its privileges and broad business interests.

(Reporting By Andrew Quinn; Editing by Will Dunham)