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Suspend aid to Egypt, national security team tells Obama

By Elise Labott, CNN
September 5, 2013 -- Updated 1634 GMT (0034 HKT)
Protesters and Egyptian riot police clash in Cairo on January 17, as the country awaits the results of a constitutional referendum. On January 18, the electoral commission announced the constitution had overwhelmingly been approved. Protesters and Egyptian riot police clash in Cairo on January 17, as the country awaits the results of a constitutional referendum. On January 18, the electoral commission announced the constitution had overwhelmingly been approved.
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STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • The United States provides some $1.5 billion in aid to Egypt yearly
  • Some military aid has already been halted
  • The review of aid to Egypt came after that country's president was overthrown

Washington (CNN) -- President Barack Obama's national security team has recommended the U.S. suspend hundreds of millions of dollars in aid to Egypt over the Egyptian military's ouster of President Mohammed Morsy, U.S. officials said.

The recommendation, officials said, was made in a "principals meeting" last week of the president's national security team, including National Security Adviser Susan Rice, Secretary of State John Kerry and Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel. The meeting was the culmination of months of debate within the administration about how to respond to the July 3 ouster of Morsy, Egypt's first democratically elected leader.

The Obama administration has not labeled Morsy's removal from office a "coup." Such a designation would require a cut in all but humanitarian aid. The White House has said it was in U.S. national security interests to keep the aid intact, although it did delay delivery of some fighter planes.

But after U.S. calls to the Egyptian military for restraint over the last month were met with a heavy-handed crackdown on Morsy supporters, Obama canceled a joint military exercise and announced a new review of U.S. aid to Egypt.

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That aid totals $1.5 billion a year, $1.3 billion of which goes to the Egyptian military. The rest is economic assistance, some of which goes to the government and some goes to other groups, although only aid to the government would be suspended and could be reinstated once a democratic government is re-established.

Officials said Obama's advisers recommended that the cut in aid include all foreign military financing to the Egyptian military, except funding toward security in the Sinai Peninsula and along the Egyptian border with the Gaza strip. The Sinai has become increasingly unstable over the past year, with U.S. troops in the area monitoring the peace treaty with Egypt coming under increased threat.

The officials said they didn't expect Obama to make a decision until after Congress votes on his request to authorize military strikes on Syria, which is not expected until next week.

"The president has not made a decision to suspend or terminate our assistance to Egypt beyond what the administration has already announced," said Caitlin Hayden, spokeswoman for the National Security Council. "The national security team continues to review all of our assistance to Egypt."

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