Egypt: US Hagel and Sisi discuss Egypt's plans to move forward
US Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel phoned his Egyptian counterpart on Saturday to express US concerns about a new Egyptian law that hinders protests. The new law has engaged the arrest of a group of Egyptian girls and political activists, a spokesman said.
Due to his close ties with the military, Hagel is considered an important conduit of communication with Egypt.
In a call Saturday, Hagel urged Defense Minister Abdel Fattah El-Sisi to look into the issue. Hagel claimed it would be seen as an example of Egypt’s "commitment to a non-violent, inclusive and sustainable democratic transition," Pentagon spokesman Carl Woog said in a statement.
Used mostly for military assistance, the United States provides Egypt with about $1.55 billion in aid annually. But US officials said, pending visible progression in human rights issues and democracy in Egypt, the United States would withhold some of that assistance, including weaponry and cash.
Rights groups have shown great resistance to the recent Egyptian protest law, which bans demonstrations without prior police approval.
Since then, police have used force to clear Islamist protesters supporting ousted president Mohamed Morsi.
Other non-Islamist activists have been charged under the new law.
Overall, 21 women demonstrators have been given prison sentences up to 11 years for participating in a protest in support of Morsi. Seven of the women were under age 18, the youngest 15.
The constitution was not the only item on the discussion agenda. El-Sisi and Hagel also discussed terrorism, border and maritime security and regional issues such as Iran and Syria, Woog stated.
Hagel thanked El-Sisi for continuing to fight terrorism in the peninsula and also expressed condolences over the death of 10 Egyptian soldiers in a recent car bomb attack by al Qaeda-inspired militants in the Sinai.