White House blasts Egypt

The Bush administration blasted Egypt for arresting opposition members.

“We are concerned by a continuing campaign of arrests in Egypt of individuals who are opponents of the current governing party and are involved in the upcoming local elections,” White House spokeswoman Dana Perino said Wednesday.

“The people of Egypt should be permitted to choose freely among competing candidates. We call on the government of Egypt to cease any actions that would compromise the ability of the Egyptian people to fully exercise their internationally recognized human rights and to participate in a free and fair election.”

U.S. Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice last week announced that the Bush administration had waived congressional restrictions on $100 million of the $1.4 billion Egypt receives annually in defense assistance. The aid was tied to civil liberty reforms and securing the border between Egypt and the Gaza Strip.

Since then, Congress has criticized the Bush administration for not doing enough to confront the U.S. ally on its failure to introduce civil liberty reforms.

In light of the recent crackdowns on efforts to challenge the Egyptian government, U.S. lawmakers are re-examining the defense assistance, which dates to Egypt’s 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

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