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US withholds some military, economic aid to post-coup Egypt

The US has announced that it will halt the deliveries of major weapons - including helicopters, jets and tanks - to Egypt, three months after the military ousted Egypt's first democratically elected president.

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.

"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."

A cash transfer of $260 million was also halted.

Psaki also said the US would continue assistance "to help secure Egypt's borders," for counterterrorism missions, and to "ensure security in the Sinai" - referring to the increasingly restless Egyptian peninsula that borders Israel. Israel, which sees the US-Egyptian partnership as a cornerstone of its own peace deal with Cairo, had repeatedly requested that US aid continued to flow.

The coup question

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 date was set for November 4 earlier on Wednesday.

Democrat Senator Patrick Leahy, who chairs the Senate Appropriations panel that funds US aid to Egypt, said the decision was overdue considering July's events.

"Our law is clear. When there is a military coup, US aid to the government is cut off," Leahy said in a statement. "Rather than encourage reconciliation and restore democracy as it promised, the Egyptian military has reinstituted martial law and cracked down on the Islamic opposition, which has also used violence."

The government in Washington did not immediately refer to Egypt's change of leadership as a coup. Morsi's ouster followed major public demonstrations against his government and was welcomed by many Egyptians.

The interim government in Cairo did not immediately issue a response, although one US official said Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel had telephoned army chief General Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi to tell him about the developments.

msh/lw (AFP, AP, dpa, Reuters)