Obama to meet top aides on Egypt military aid as White House says assistance not freezed

Obama to meet top aides on Egypt military aid as White House says assistance not freezed

WASHINGTON - Agence France-Presse / Reuters
Obama to meet top aides on Egypt military aid as White House says assistance not freezed

People walk past army soldiers guarding in front of the Egyptian museum in Tahrir square, in Cairo, Aug. 19. REUTERS photo

U.S. President Barack Obama will meet with national security aides Aug. 20 to discuss the future of US aid to Egypt in the wake of its military-backed government's fierce crackdown on supporters of the ousted President Mohamed Morsi.

But the White House insisted that reports it had already cut assistance were wrong, insisting that military and economic grants were merely under review.

The meeting at the White House between Obama and top members of his National Security Council was due to begin shortly, said Josh Earnest, a White House spokesman.

Earnest denied reports that Washington has already made a decision to secretly freeze aid to Egypt's military rulers.

The comments came after the Daily Beast website said U.S. assistance had been "secretly pulled" by the Obama administration.

Aid cannot be 'turned off an on like a faucet'

Earnest said there had been no final decision on a review of U.S. aid to Egypt launched after the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, the country's first democratically elected leader.

"That review that the president ordered in early July has not concluded," Earnest said. "Reports to the contrary that suggest that assistance to Egypt has been cut off are not accurate." In an increasingly complex game of semantics on $1.3 billion of annual U.S. military aid to Egypt, Earnest insisted that the flow of aid was not a "faucet" that could be turned off and on.

"This is not a faucet in which you just turn the spigot and assistance continues to flow," Earnest said. "Assistance is provided episodically, assistance is provided in tranches... This is not a matter of turning the dial one way or the other."

Earlier, an aide to Senator Patrick Leahy, a Democrat who heads the subcommittee on foreign operations, said the flow of aid had been "stopped." "This is current practice, not necessarily official policy, and there is no indication of how long it will last," the aide said

Criticism of Bortherhood leader's detention

Earnest also said that Egypt's detention of Muslim Brotherhood leader Mohamed Badie ran contrary to the military's commitments to foster an "inclusive political process."

Earnest said the arrest was the "latest in a series of actions that the Egyptian government has taken that does not reflect their commitment to an inclusive political process." "It certainly is an act that is contrary to a legal system that is insulated from politics," he said.

Badie, who was arrested earlier on Aug. 20, is to be held for 15 days on allegations of having incited the murder of protesters, Egyptian state television reported.