VT senator says aid to Egypt may end soon
NEAL P. GOSWAMI
BENNINGTON — Vermont Sen. Patrick Leahy said Thursday he is prepared to cut off aid to Egypt unless embattled Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak steps down.
Leahy, a Democrat, and the chairman of the Senate Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, which oversees American foreign aid, made the comments in an interview that aired on MSNBC Thursday.
Leahy said Mubarak’s options have dwindled as anti-government protesters continue to demonstrate against Mubarak’s 30-year rule. Pro-Mubarak demonstrators that have emerged in recent days, along with violence, appear to be “government sponsored,” he said.
“Time has run out, and the options that might have been available to President Mubarak three or four years ago are not there now. It is unrealistic to think he can wait until elections in September,” Leahy said in the interview. “It also does not help his position to have people — actually thugs — in the street that appear to be government sponsored.”
Leahy said some of the estimated $2 billion in aid to Egypt can be stopped quickly by lawmakers.
“We have a lot of aid in the pipeline now,” Leahy said. “That pipeline will be turned off. There is nobody — Republican or Democratic — in the Senate, or I suspect in the House, that is going to vote for an aid package for Egypt under these circumstances.”
But support for Egypt, an American ally for decades and the largest Arab country, will continue if new leaders come to power, Leahy said.
“Aid will continue to Egypt if you have someone who’s come in with credibility who is trying to help the people, trying to help those who are unemployed, those who are not being fed.”
Leahy has been in touch with the White House and State Department for briefings as events in Egypt have unfolded, a spokesman said.
Leahy also strongly denounced the violence against anti-government protesters and international reporters that have been attacked in Cairo.
“The thuggery that is being waged against Egyptian protesters and working journalists is deeply disturbing and deserves the world’s condemnation,” Leahy said. “I applaud our country’s leaders for their strong objections to this unfortunate turn in the Egyptian Government’s handling of the crisis.”
“For Egypt’s future, and for President Mubarak’s own good, the attacks on protesters and the assaults on and detention of
journalists must end immediately,” Leahy added. “There is much in the Mubarak era to his credit, including three decades of Egypt’s peace with its neighbors. I hope President Mubarak will realize that this violence threatens to blot his legacy and that it will not prevent an early end of his rule, which now seems inevitable.”
Contact Neal P. Goswami at email@example.com