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Egyptian Foreign Relations

Location: Washington, DC

EGYPTIAN FOREIGN RELATIONS -- (House of Representatives - July 18, 2005)

The SPEAKER pro tempore. Under a previous order of the House, the gentlewoman from Florida (Ms. Ros-Lehtinen) is recognized for 5 minutes.

Ms. ROS-LEHTINEN. Mr. Speaker, tomorrow the House is poised to consider House Resolution 2601, the Foreign Relations Authorization Act for Fiscal Years 2006 and 2007. Among the many critical provisions in this bill is one relating to Egypt that I would like to discuss tonight.

Despite large amounts of bilateral U.S. assistance, Egypt has failed to modernize its economy, it has failed to end the influence of Islamic influence in the schools and in the media, and it has failed to improve the human rights situation in its homeland.

While Mr. Mubarak continues to pay lip service to holding participatory, multi-party elections, dissidents and those who voice their opposition to the government's policies continue to be arrested, to be beaten, and otherwise punished for attempting to exercise their most basic fundamental human rights as human beings and Egyptian citizens.

In response, the underlying provisions in the Foreign Relations Authorization Act, also known as the State Department Authorization Bill, shifts funds from military aid to economic assistance for the purpose of supporting Egyptian civil society and improving the quality of life of the Egyptian people.

The underlying provision transfers $40 million in military aid for each of the next 3 years, a mere 3 percent of Egypt's overall $1.3 billion to economic assistance. Egypt faces no military threat. However, Egypt continues to procure jet fighters, tanks, armored personnel carriers, Apache helicopters, anti-aircraft missile batteries, surveillance aircraft, and other equipment under our Foreign Military Sales program, in addition to unconfirmed reports of Egyptian attempts to procure North Korean medium-range missiles, and these are serious questions regarding the purpose and rationale of an ongoing military build-up by the Egyptian Government.

In addition, after decades of promises and unfulfilled commitments to the United States, Egypt's economic conditions remain dire. The underlying provision in the bill is hardly a major price to pay in order to send the message that Egypt needs to pay more attention to human rights and economic and social development. Not one penny is cut from the overall aid package. It is merely a shift in priorities.

The Hyde/Lantos/Ros-Lehtinen provision is in keeping with U.S. public diplomacy efforts by sending a clear message about U.S. priorities for Egypt's future and the future for the Egyptian people. It builds good will with the people of the region by supporting educational, economic, and biological development, goals which contribute most effectively to Egypt's internal stability.

This provision also supports the priorities of President Bush to bring freedom, democracy, and sound economies to the Middle East. He articulated here in this Chamber in the State of the Union earlier this year that the great and proud nation of Egypt, which showed the way toward peace in the Middle East, can now show the way toward democracy in the Middle East.

Finally, the underlying provisions further supports congressional views articulated in the 9/11 Implementation Act regarding the need to reevaluate our previous policies of supporting dictatorships and, in turn, support civil society and reforms as a means of addressing the precursor conditions which breed terrorism.

In Egypt, we see a nation of great potential; and to fully realize that potential, Egypt must reform itself, economically and politically. The language already in the bill seeks to empower Egyptian civil society rather than the entrenched Egyptian military.

In this context, I ask my colleagues to oppose any amendments that seek to strike this provision. Any amendment to weaken or to strike the Egyptian language in the authorization bill would send the wrong message to Egypt and to other dictatorial regimes in the broader Middle East, that they can proceed with virtual impunity and it is business as usual. In a post-9/11 world, this is the wrong message to send.

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