WASHINGTON (Oct. 30)
A proposal to raise the amount of cash transfer funds designated for Egypt in the 1986 foreign aid bill was blocked in a Senate subcommittee yesterday, reflecting lingering resentment of Egypt’s handling of the Achille Lauro hijacking earlier this month.
The proposal to grant Egypt double the $100 million originally requested by the Administration, granting $85 million more than the amount approved in the Foreign Aid authorization bill last summer, was introduced to the Appropriation Committee’s Foreign Operations Subcommittee yesterday by subcommittee chairman Bob Kasten (R. Wis.) and Daniel Inouye (D. Hawaii).
Although the change would not have added to the total amount of $815 million in economic support funds already approved for Egypt, it would have increased the share of aid that Egypt would receive in direct cash transfers.
The move was blocked by Sen. Arlen Specter (R. Pa.), who called for a cut in the already approved cash transfer grant from $115 million to $100 million, as an expression of anger over Egypt’s handling of the Achille Lauro cruise ship tragedy.
Specter had called for a cut in U.S. aid to Egypt immediately after U.S. fighter jets intercepted an Egyptian civilian airliner carrying the hijackers of the cruise ship to freedom. Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak had earlier maintained that the gunmen who seized the cruise ship and killed a 69-year-old. American passenger, Leon Klinghoffer, had already left Egypt in accordance with an agreement that resulted in their release of the ship and passengers.
Mubarak reacted to the incident with equally bitter criticism of the United States for forcing down an Egyptian civilian plane. Assistant Deputy Secretary of State John Whitehead traveled to Cairo shortly afterwards to patch up relations between the two countries over the affair.
Yesterday’s subcommittee vote approving $115 million in cash transfer funds for Egypt was a compromise that left the amount at the level originally authorized by Congress. The $3 billion earlier authorized for Israel in both economic and military aid was also maintained at its original level by the subcommittee.