US Official: Egypt's Missile Activities within 'Acceptable Limits'
Following consultations with its ally, the United States has concluded that Egypt's missile development activities are within "acceptable limits," but the US will nevertheless keep a close eye on the issue, a senior State Department official told Reuters on Tuesday.
"We have had some discussions with the Egyptians about their missile program in order to satisfy ourselves that they were not going into areas that we felt were inappropriate," the official said.
"We're satisfied with what they told us but this is a subject we'll continue to keep under close observation and discussion," he added.
It was reported earlier this week that the US administration is planning to establish a new mechanism to better coordinate US arms sales to Egypt and to more efficiently monitor Egyptian acquisitions of advanced weapons technology.
But the US official declined to comment on the report, according to Reuters.
A senior administration official had told the Jerusalem Post that the move followed a dispute between the US and Egypt over the latter's efforts, according to the CIA and others, to develop and produce ballistic missiles with North Korea's help.
Egypt has denied that such a program exists, though the issue is repeatedly raised in meetings between senior US and Egyptian officials and has become a sore point in the allies' bilateral relationship, said the official.
In July, Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak denied US intelligence reports that his country aimed to produce intermediate-range missiles.
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 said 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.
According to a report by the Middle East Newsline (MENL) on July 31, the Bush administration publicly expressed, for the first time, its concern over the prospect that Egypt had developed a No-Dong-class intermediate-range missile with North Korean help.
But Israel itself has said that does not deem the alleged Egyptian program a threat to its security.
Israeli Defense Minister Benjamin Ben-Eliezer has said that Israel "does not feel threatened by Egypt’s plans to acquire North Korean missiles.”
Egypt receives roughly $1.3 billion in military aid and about $700 million in economic assistance each year from the US.
It is the largest recipient of conventional US military and economic aid after Israel – Albawaba.com
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