Egypt's Foreign Minister Mohamed Amr argued Sunday against threats to cut off US aid, saying his government had little control over an inquiry into funding for pro-democracy groups in Egypt which has caused outrage abroad, dpa reported.
Several non-government organizations are under investigation for allegedly failing to register in Egypt and for improperly funneling funding to Egyptian pro-democracy groups.
Washington has threatened to withhold 1.2 billion dollars of annual aid. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton on Saturday reiterated the position in a meeting with Amr on the sidelines of the Munich Security Conference in Germany.
Amr, addressing a panel at the conference, argued that the US alliance with Egypt is "strategic" and the Egyptian government had little control over an independent judicial investigation.
"These groups are under investigation by the judicial authorities, not the executive branch," he said.
"If you are talking about democracy, this is the division of authorities. We cannot exercise any influence on the judges right now. But I assure you there is no influence from the authorities."
Workers with the groups, which promote democratic practice, have been blocked from leaving Egypt. One of those affected is Sam LaHood, the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
US Senator Joseph Lieberman, also sitting on the panel, seemed unmoved by Amr's arguments and said the aid money was at risk so long as the US citizens were prevented from leaving Egypt.
"The current American aid to Egypt simply will not continue," said Lieberman. "I hope we will come back in a year and find Egypt is doing better with the revolution than it is now."
In December, Egyptian security forces and police raided 17 non-governmental organization offices throughout the country, detaining employees and seizing computer files. A German group, the Konrad Adenauer Foundation, was among those raided.