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US military aid to Egypt again halted; C295 deliveries continue

AH-64 Apache helicopters.US Senator Patrick Leahy, chairman of the Senate subcommittee that oversees foreign aid, said on Tuesday last week that he would not approve sending funds to the Egyptian military, denouncing a "sham trial" in which a court sentenced 683 people to death.

The Pentagon on April 22 said that US Defence Secretary Chuck Hagel had told Egyptian Minister of Defence Colonel General Sedki Sobhy that President Barack Obama had approved delivery of ten AH-64 Apache helicopters to support Egypt’s counter-terrorism operations in the Sinai, together with $650 million. Deliveries of F-16C/D fighter jets, M1 Abrams main battle tank kits and Harpoon missiles were still suspended.

However, in a speech on the Senate floor on Tuesday, Leahy said that, "I'm not prepared to sign off on the delivery of additional aid for the Egyptian military. I'm not prepared to do that until we see convincing evidence the government is committed to the rule of law."

An Egyptian court last Monday sentenced the leader of the Mursi's outlawed Muslim Brotherhood and 682 supporters to death, intensifying a crackdown on the Islamist movement that could trigger protests and political violence ahead of an election this month.

Leahy said he would be watching the situation in Egypt with "growing dismay" even if he were not chairman of the State and Foreign Operations Subcommittee, denouncing "a sham trial lasting barely an hour."

"It's an appalling abuse of the justice system, which is fundamental to any democracy. Nobody, nobody, can justify this. It does not show democracy. It shows a dictatorship run amok. It is a total violation of human rights," the Vermont Democrat said.

The Apaches are not subject to legislative approval, congressional aides said.

Washington normally sends $1.5 billion in mostly military aid to Egypt each year, but a U.S. law intended to promote international human rights, written by Leahy, bars funding for governments brought to power via military coup.

The Obama administration wavered for months last year over what to call the July events in Cairo. But it cut aid off in October to demonstrate unhappiness after the ouster of Mohamed Mursi, who emerged from the Muslim Brotherhood to become Egypt's first democratically elected leader after a popular uprising ended the 30-year rule of Hosni Mubarak in February 2011.

Egypt was due to take delivery of 12 AH-64D Block II Apache Longbow helicopters as part of a deal confirmed in May 2009.

Meanwhile, Airbus Defence and Space has continued delivering C295 transport aircraft to Egypt. An eighth Egyptian Air Force C295 was seen transiting Malta on April 4 on its delivery flight from the Airbus factory in Spain.

The Egyptian Air Force has ordered 12 C295Ms, with an initial three being ordered in October 2010 and deliveries being completed in November and December 2011. Another three were ordered in March 2012 and another six in January 2013.

Airbus Military had planned to deliver this final batch of six by the end of 2013, but on August 28 the Spanish Inter-Ministerial Council on Defence and Dual Use Materiel (JIMDDU) suspended all existing Egyptian defence contracts, saying the move was cautionary and would be reviewed every month following the Egyptian military’s overthrow of Mursi’s democratically elected government on July 3.

Deliveries resumed in December, with a seventh example spotted on its delivery flight in Malta on December 3, 2013.
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