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Egypt: can’t influence democracy groups probe

Associated Press

MUNICH (AP) – Egypt’s foreign minister insisted Sunday that the government can’t intervene in an investigation of foreign-funded pro-democracy organizations that is straining ties with the United States, but underlined Cairo’s commitment to the relationship with Washington.

Mohammed Amr spoke at an international security conference in Germany a day after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton warned him anew that failure to resolve the dispute may lead to the loss of American aid.

“This a totally judicial issue right now,” Amr said. “We are doing our best to contain this but, well, if you are talking about democracy there is a separation between authorities _ and we cannot actually exercise any influence on the investigating judges right now when it comes to the investigation.”

U.S.-Egyptian tensions have been high since raids on organizations, some of them funded by the American government, began late last year.

Heavily armed security forces raided 17 offices belonging to 10 pro-democracy and human rights groups. U.S. and U.N. officials blasted the raids, which Egyptian officials have defended as part of a legitimate investigation into the groups’ work and finances.

In late January, Egypt barred at least six Americans and four Europeans who worked for U.S.-based organizations from leaving the country. They included Sam LaHood, the head of the Egypt office of the Washington-based International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, the only Republican in President Barack Obama’s Cabinet.

Amr insisted that “the executive branch has nothing to do” with the investigation.

“The United States’ relationship with Egypt is strategic, it is beneficial for both sides, and it is much more valuable (than) actually to be put at risk … from either side by such an action,” Amr said.

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