Egyptian Cabinet Minister Accused U.S. of Using Nonprofits to Foment Civil Unrest

Complicating the already strained relationship between the two countries, the testimony of an Egyptian cabinet minister who has been leading the crackdown on foreign nonprofit groups appears to blame the United States for funding the groups with an eye to creating chaos in the country, the Associated Press reports.

In October, International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga, who served under longtime Egyptian president and U.S. ally Hosni Mubarak, testified before Egyptian judges investigating allegations that nongovernmental organizations were using foreign funds to foment unrest in the country. Her testimony was published in state-owned newspapers on Tuesday. Last week, Egyptian authorities referred forty-three employees of nongovernmental organizations, including at least sixteen Americans, to stand trial before a criminal court.

Egypt has been one of the leading recipients of U.S. economic and military assistance over recent decades, and while the Obama administration has threatened to cut off the $1.5 billion it sends to Egypt if the NGO issue isn't resolved to its satisfaction, the release of Aboul Naga's testimony suggests that the country's ruling generals may not be willing, at least for now, to back down. According to press reports, Gen. Martin Dempsey, chairman of the U.S. Joint Chiefs of Staff, spoke last week with some of the generals but appeared to make little or no progress on resolving the issue.

"We discussed that [situation] very professionally," Dempsey told the Pentagon's American Forces Press Service. "I expressed the fact that it caused us concern, not only about the particular NGOs and individuals currently unable to leave the country, but rather more broadly....But we've got some work to do [on resolving tensions over the issue of the nonprofit groups] and so do they."