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Kerry: Egypt aid curtailment is not a 'withdrawal from relations'

US Secretary of State John Kerry has said a decision to cut some aid to Egypt does not constitute a "withdrawal from relations." Egypt has criticized the decision, vowing not to give in to "American pressure."

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US cuts aid to Egypt

The US Secretary of State sought to reassure Egypt on Thursday over its decision to suspend some of its financial and military aid to the military-backed interim government. The move came amid widespread international concern over the government's crackdown on supporters of ousted President Mohammed Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood.

"The interim government understands very well our commitment to the success of this government, which we want to see achieve, and by no means is this a withdrawal from our relationship or a severing of our serious commitment to helping the government," John Kerry told reporters shortly after arriving in Malaysia.

He said the US was open to reinstating aid to the government "based on performance."

On Wednesday the US announced it will halt the deliveries of major weapons - including helicopters, jets and tanks. The US State Department said that some of the military deliveries being withheld included 10 Apache helicopters, F-16 fighter jets, M1A1 Abrams tank parts and Harpoon anti-ship missiles.

Officials did not provide precise figures on the value of the withheld deliveries, saying only that it constituted hundreds of millions of dollars. In total, the US currently provides $1.5 billion (1.11 billion euros) in aid to Egypt each year, the majority of which is for military equipment and training. A cash transfer of $260 million was also halted.

"The United States continues to support a democratic transition and oppose violence as a means of resolving differences within Egypt," State Department spokeswoman Jan Psaki said, seeking to stress that the decision was temporary. "We will continue to review the decisions regarding our assistance periodically and will continue to work with the interim government to help it move toward our shared goals in an atmosphere free of violence and intimidation."

Egypt condemns aid suspension

Egypt's interim government has reacted with anger to the decision, warning of implications it may have on efforts to combat terrorism.

"It is a flawed decision in terms of content and timing and raises serious questions over the United States' readiness to provide strategic support to Egypt's security programs," the foreign ministry said in a statement.

The decision comes at a time "of dangerous terrorism-related challenges" faced by Egypt, regardless of whether the measures are temporary or not.

Egypt "will continue to take decisions regarding its domestic affairs with full independence and without foreign pressure," the ministry said.

The future of US aid was called into question this July, when the military ousted Egypt's first democratically-elected president, Mohammed Morsi. The ouster was followed by widespread protests from Morsi supporters, demonstrations the military ultimately quashed with force. Morsi and many other senior members of his Muslim Brotherhood organization have since been arrested. Morsi is charged with inciting violence against protesters when in office. His trial has been set for November 4.

ccp/hc (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)

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