U.S. Denies Envoy's 'Interfering' Remarks.
"To hell with U.S. assistance"
The U.S. embassy in Cairo denied its ambassador had made comments about Washington's aid to the Arab world's most populous nation that had Egyptian MPs up in arms.
Lawmakers accused the ambassador of interfering in Egypt's domestic affairs after parliament was told of the reported comments by ambassador Francis Ricciardone.
"The U.S. has interests and pays money to the Egyptian government, which must work to achieve those interests," independent MP Kamal Ahmed had quoted Ricciardone as saying.
Ahmed also accused him of describing the Egyptian opposition as "opportunist", triggering harsh criticism of Ricciardone across the political spectrum.
But the U.S. embassy dismissed the claims. "Allegations reportedly raised in the Egyptian People's Assembly regarding statements by the U.S. ambassador have no basis in fact," the U.S. embassy said. "(They) bear no resemblance to public or private comments by the ambassador or other members of the embassy." Washington, it said, "provides economic and military assistance for programs supporting priorities of the government of Egypt, by mutual agreement with the United States, to advance our shared interests in strengthening peace, democracy, and prosperity in Egypt and the region."
Egypt, a leading recipient of US economic and military aid, has received more than $60 billion since 1979, including $34 billion in foreign military financing credits to buy U.S. materiel and services.
But Washington has spoken out recently against Egypt's strong-arm tactics against the opposition, including the jailing of prominent opposition leader Ayman Nur and crackdowns against anti-government demonstrations.
"To hell with U.S. assistance," the state-owned Al-Ahram daily quoted Ahmed as declaring in parliament.
Other MPs, including Haydar Baghdadi of the ruling National Democratic Party said that if true, the comments amounted to interference in Egyptian internal affairs.
"Egypt does not accept interference in its internal affairs from any country, large or small, or from any country that gives us aid or receives aid from us," commented Parliamentary Affairs Minister Mofeid Shehab.
Speaker Fathi Sorur asked parliament's foreign affairs committee to study the allegations, saying if they turned out to be correct, the government should respond.