Obama officials: No coup in Egypt

Updated 26 July 2013

Obama officials: No coup in Egypt

WASHINGTON: The Obama administration will tell lawmakers Thursday that it will not declare Egypt’s government overthrow a coup, US officials said, allowing the United States to continue providing $1.5 billion in annual military and economic aid to the Arab world’s most populous country.
William Burns, the State Department’s No. 2 official, will hold closed-doors briefings with members of the House and Senate just a day after Washington delayed delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt. It was the first US action since the military ousted Muhammad Mursi as president, imprisoned him and other Muslim Brotherhood members and suspended the constitution earlier this month.
The administration has been forced into difficult contortions to justify not declaring a coup d’etat, which would prompt the automatic suspension of American assistance programs under US law. Washington fears that halting such funding could imperil programs that help to secure Israel’s border and fight weapons smuggling into the Hamas-controlled Gaza Strip, among other things seen as critical to US national security.
It is unclear what specific arguments it will present Thursday, but the officials said Burns will explain how the administration has yet to make any coup determination and that it doesn’t plan to do so in the future as Egypt moves to restore civilian governance and hold new democratic elections. The officials spoke on condition of anonymity because they weren’t authorized to speak publicly ahead of the private meetings.
Many from both parties in Congress sympathize with the administration’s view and the need to back a military that has safeguarded Egypt’s peace with Israel for three decades. Still, some across the political spectrum disagree. Republicans from libertarian Sen. Rand Paul to hawkish Sen. John McCain, and Democrats such as Sen. Carl Levin have demanded the coup law be enforced.
The law stipulates, however, that it is President Barack Obama and his administration’s decision on how to characterize Mursi’s July 3 overthrow.
White House and State Department officials pointed shortly afterward to the large anti-Mursi protests that preceded the military’s action and said Mursi’s Islamist-led government, while democratically elected, was taking Egypt down an increasingly undemocratic path.
Since then, the president and his national security team have tried to balance support for the military’s proposed return to constitutional rule and democratic elections alongside concern over the crackdown on key Mursi allies. The delay of the fighter jets, scheduled for delivery this month, was the first direct action the US took since the upheaval.
However, the Pentagon said this week the US was proceeding as planned with this year’s joint military exercises. The biennial maneuvers were canceled in 2011 following the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak. During Mubarak’s three decades in power, Egypt was America’s premier ally in the Arab world and at the heart of its efforts to fight Islamic terrorism, roll back Iranian influence across the Middle East and promote peace among Israel and its Muslim neighbors.

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Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

Updated 55 min 5 sec ago

Iranian hard-liners in parliament reject president’s nominee

  • According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries
  • Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee

TEHRAN, Iran: Iranian hard-liners in parliament on Wednesday voted against President Hassan Rouhani’s nominee for trade minister in the first showdown between the rival camps since the house resumed work in May despite the struggles to curb the spread of the coronavirus.
According to the parliament’s website, lawmakers rejected Hossein Modares Khiabani’s nomination for minister of trade and industries.
Parliament Speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf said the vote was 140-104 against the nominee. There were 254 lawmakers at the session and 10 abstained. The parliament has 290 seats.
The vote marked the first serious confrontation between the newly elected house, dominated by conservatives and the bloc of supporters of the relatively moderate Rouhani. Under the law, Rouhani must introduce new nominees to his Cabinet in the next three months.
Rouhani in May dismissed the trade and industry minister at the time, Reza Rahmani, as Iran faced an unprecedented economic downturn amid intense pressure from the United States after President Donald Trump pulled America out of Iran’s nuclear with world powers and reimposed sanctions on the country. Khiabani, 52, had since been the acting trade minister.
Iran is also grappling with the largest and deadliest outbreak of the coronavirus in the Middle East, with more than 331,000 confirmed cases and at least 18,800 deaths.