Report: Egypt's Missile Program Stuck in Second Phase
Egypt's intermediate-range missile program is said to be stuck in its critical second phase, according to a report by the Middle East Newsline (MENL) on Thursday.
US defense sources, who are monitoring the program, said Cairo is being blocked by the United States from obtaining key components and engines required to develop a missile based on North Korea's No-Dong.
The sources said Washington had pressured Egypt to suspend plans to import 50 engines from Pyongyang needed for the first series of missiles.
The Egyptian-North Korean missile cooperation is said to have topped the agenda of talks by a visiting Egyptian Defense Ministry delegation with key members of the House and Senate last week, MENL said.
The delegation spent three days in Washington in an effort to persuade Congress that Egypt had abandoned any plans to produce a No-Dong variant.
The second phase -- planned for conclusion this year -- was said to have included production of tubes and guidance systems as well as additional North Korean engines.
The third phase was to have involved assembling the missiles and producing engines.
Earlier in July, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied US intelligence reports that his country aimed to produce the intermediate-range missiles, according to a previous report by MENL.
In the first public reference to the matter by the president, Mubarak said his regime was not interested in what he termed long-range missiles.
Mubarak told the Al Mussawar magazine that Egypt had no use for such a program, because Cairo did not harbor hostile intentions toward any country.
Western diplomatic sources were quoted by MENL as saying Mubarak relayed a similar message during his visit to Washington in March. At the time, Mubarak met President George Bush, senior administration officials and congressional leaders.
The news service also reported then that Mubarak appeared "relieved" over initial congressional approval to continue US military aid to Egypt.
The issue was being pressed by several Republican leaders in the House and Senate who expressed dismay over Egypt's “human rights violations” as well as efforts to develop the intermediate-range missiles.
US officials reported that North Korea had tested an engine used in the long-range Taepo Dong-1 missile program. A recent test was said to have been the most significant development in North Korea's missile development program since 1998, said MENL.
Each year, Egypt receives $1.3 billion in US military aid and about $630 million in civilian aid - Albawaba.com
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