Egypt struggling a year after Mubarak’s ouster

Egypt struggling a year after Mubarak’s ouster

Egypt struggling a year after Mubarak’s ouster

Field Marshal Tantawi, head of Egypt’s ruling military council, (R) shares a laugh with US General Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, during a meeting in Cairo. AFP photo

The top U.S. military officer met Egypt’s ruling generals in Cairo on Feb. 11 and discussed the case of U.S. pro-democracy activists charged in an investigation that has strained ties between Cairo and Washington.

General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was the first senior U.S. official to visit Cairo since the charges were brought against 43 foreign and Egyptian activists following a probe into civil society groups. Around 20 of those charged are Americans. They have been banned from leaving the country. Meanwhile, a planned day of civil disobedience and strikes against Egypt’s military rulers to mark a year since Hosni Mubarak’s overthrow on Feb. 11 saw only a small turnout.

Police said they arrested an Australian reporter and a U.S. university student accused of paying people to protest, hours after the meeting of Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi and Dempsey. The call for strikes in universities and work places came after a wave of protests pressuring the military to transfer power immediately to civilians, rather than wait for presidential elections later this year. Strikes in the main universities attracted relatively small numbers. Police said they arrested reporter Austin Mackell, U.S. student Derek Ludovici and translator Aliya Alwi in the Nile Delta city of Mahalla after they received reports that the three were handing out money to incite protesters.

Aid discussion this week
The NGO case has put a deep strain on relations with Washington, which counted Egypt as a close strategic ally under Mubarak and supplies Cairo with an annual $1.3 billion in military aid. Both the U.S. Congress and the White House have said the investigation could threaten the aid. An Egyptian official said a delegation from Congress will be visiting Cairo this week to continue discussions over aid. Dempsey met Tantawi and chief of staff General Sami Anan during meetings at the defense ministry in Cairo. “They discussed a wide range of issues related to the long-standing security relationship between our two countries, including the issue involving U.S. NGOs,” a spokesman for Dempsey, said in a statement. An Egyptian army official said the sides had “stressed the importance of the two countries’ commitment to international conventions and treaties and emphasized the depth of the strategic relations between the U.S. and Egypt.”

Compiled from AFP and Reuters stories by the Daily News staff.