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Al-Azhar Supports Egyptian Dignity Aid

Published: 24/02/2012 05:18:32 PM GMT
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CAIRO - Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb gave a nod to an initiative launched by Salafi preacher Mohamed Hassan to forgo US military aid and rep (more)

CAIRO - Grand Sheikh of Al-Azhar Ahmed El-Tayeb gave a nod to an initiative launched by Salafi preacher Mohamed Hassan to forgo US military aid and replace it with a local campaign to raise the same amount from the Egyptian people.

“The initiative reflects the Egyptian people's reaction to American attempts since [last year's] January 25 Revolution to use US assistance to force Egypt's new administration to maintain the US role and influence in the country,” El-Tayib said on Thursday, Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

The initiative supported by El-Tayyip was spearheaded by prominent Salafi scholar Mohamed Hassaan following a row between Egypt ruling generals and Washington over funding of nongovernmental organizations.

It started when Egypt banned 19 Americans, among 43 foreign and local activists, from leaving Egypt, accusing them of working for organizations that were not properly licensed in Egypt and receiving foreign funds illegally.

US officials reacted saying that the $1.3 billion in annual US military aid to Cairo is at risk, along with some $250 million in economic aid.

Hassaan called on Egyptians to pay 10 pounds each under a special fund - dubbed "The Dignity Fund" that would replace the US aid.

"The Egyptian people never accept to be insulted or humiliated ... This people won't kneel to anyone but God," Hassaan said in a TV interview broadcast this week.

Egypt has a population of 85 million, many of whom live under the poverty line. Were each to heed his call, the campaign would raise $141.6 million.

Hassaan calls found great support among Egyptians.

With the fund expected to be officially launched next month, Minister of International Cooperation Faiza Abul Naga said the government had received 60 million pounds in donations so far.

Hassan and El-Tayib have called on allied countries and Egyptians abroad to give to the fund, which, they say, would aim to achieve national security and stability and raise the standard of living for the average Egyptian.

In a separate meeting with Hassaan on Thursday, Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri praised his efforts.

Earlier this week, would-be presidential candidates Abdel Moneim Aboul-Fotouh and Mohamed Selim El-Awa also both expressed their support for the initiative.

Camp David

The US threats over its aid to Egypt was rejected by Muslim Brotherhood's Freedom and Justice Party officials who warned that Cairo might reconsider its commitment to a peace treaty with Israel if the US cuts $1.3 billion in military aid.

"The US is a principle part of this agreement and its guarantor. There is no room for talking about aid except in the framework of discussing the peace deal," Mohamed Morsi, leader of the FJP which controls nearly 50% of parliament seats, was quoted as saying on the party's Facebook page, Los Angeles Times reported on Thursday.

Morsi said US aid was part of Egypt's commitment to the treaty.

"Brandishing threats to stop this aid is out of place. Otherwise, the peace deal would be reconsidered or it could flounder," he added.

Essam Erian, head of the foreign affairs committee in the Egyptian parliament, told Reuters that Egypt was a party to the treaty "and we will be harmed, so it is our right to review the matter."  

"The aid was one of the commitments of the parties that signed the peace agreement, so if there is a breach from one side it gives the right of review to the parties," he added.

Israel and Egypt signed a peace treaty in Camp David, the US, in 1979, under which Israel withdrew from the Sinai Peninsula, which was occupied in the 1967 war.

Since Mubarak's overthrow, Israel has been worried with the potential scenarios that could take place in post-Mubarak Egypt.

The change of power in Egypt might also alter Israel's entire strategic outlook, given the fact that thanks to the peace treaty, the Israeli military kept minimal presence on its southern border, freeing it up for actions to the east and north.

In addition to that, Israel imports about 40 percent of its natural gas from Egypt, which has also played a big role in stopping the smuggling of weapons and goods into Gaza, and in helping Israel in its blockade policy aimed at pressuring Hamas.

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