US embassy in Cairo shields 3 Americans amid crackdown on NGOs


The US embassy in Cairo has given shelter to three Americans to protect them from arrest in what The New York Times is calling a new low in Cairo-Washington relations.

The three had been barred from leaving Egypt as part of crackdown on pro-democracy and human-rights organizations and their staff, the Wall Street Journal reported, adding that:

The Egyptian government is investigating funding of local NGOs, part of a campaign by some officials to halt foreign support for civil-society groups that may be critical of Egypt's government.

The Egyptian government has recently barred at least six American employees of NGOs from leaving the country, according to reports last week.

The six work for the International Republican Institute and the National Democratic Institute, "two democracy-building groups with close ties to United States Congressional leaders," according to the Times.

According to the Associated Press, the White House said Monday it was disappointed with Egypt's handing of the issue.

And Defense Secretary Leon Panetta called the head of the Egypt's ruling military council over the weekend to urge the lifting of the travel restrictions, according to the WSJ.

And midlevel U.S. officials plan to address the issue with a delegation of senior Egyptian military officers who have arrived in the US ahead of meetings with their military counterparts, legislators and other officials in a bid to mend the rift. 

Washington recently threatened to stop its $1.3 billion in badly needed aid to the Egyptian military if it failed to move toward a democratic transition, "including respecting such nongovernmental groups," the NYTimes reported. 

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