Still no word on Gamal - Bush administration meetings

From yesterday's State Dept. press briefing:

QUESTION: On Egypt. The Egyptian Government is warning that if there are demonstrations again this week it will crack down once again and throw people in jail. So I'm wondering if you feel like your strategy last week about talking about it from this podium and urging them to be more democratic has had any impact whatsoever. Have there been any high-level conversations about the U.S. displeasure if this happens again?

And finally, did the Secretary happen to run into Gamal Mubarak last week on his visit here?

MR. MCCORMACK: Funny, just happened to be at the White House and she ran into him there, yes.

QUESTION: Yeah, in the hall --

MR. MCCORMACK: No, I'll let the White House talk about various meetings over at the White House. But yes, the Secretary was in a meeting that was hosted by Steve Hadley and Gamal Mubarak was in the United States on private business. She attended the meeting. I believe if you talk to my friends over at the White House, they'll tell you the President stopped by the meeting. And as for any further details, I refer you over there.

QUESTION: Okay.

MR. MCCORMACK: Down the street.

QUESTION: The demonstrations?

MR. MCCORMACK: In terms of demonstrations, you know, I'm not aware that there were going to be -- that there were going to be additional demonstrations. We will urge, as we would with the interaction between any government and its people, that the -- any demonstrations take place in a peaceful manner, that all parties avoid any provocation to one another that might result in resort to violence.

Certainly, we have in the past and continue to call upon the Government of Egypt to allow peaceful freedom of expression. We believe that that is an important part of any healthy, functioning democracy that the people have the right to, in public, express their views whether the state likes those views or not, and be free from physical violence by the state. And of course, the state has a responsibility to provide a secure environment for all its people and we would hope and expect that the government could provide for security for its population while allowing for peaceful protest.

QUESTION: And one final thing. Last week, we talked about whether any aid would be at stake if they continued this kind of behavior. And I think over the weekend maybe a GAO report came out that said that the Administration does not even have in place a mechanism to gauge whether your aid is going to the right places and whether it has actually helped move democracy forward in Egypt specifically. Did you see those reports?

MR. MCCORMACK: I saw the press reports. I don't -- haven't looked at the GAO report myself. There are -- as with any aid program, we have monitoring mechanisms. I don't know if the dispute with the GAO report has to do about whether or not those were -- those mechanisms are robust enough. I'm happy to look into that for you.

QUESTION: Is that a State Department responsibility or --

MR. MCCORMACK: Well, it's split because the bulk -- the bulk of our assistance to Egypt flows through Foreign Military Sales and other kinds of military-to-military assistance programs. The State Department, of course, you know, plays some role in terms of hosting those offices at Embassy Cairo that oversee those aid programs. But in terms of the State Department element of this, I don't have a dollar figure for you. Yes, we do have aid programs in Egypt, but I don't have a dollar figure for you, Teri.
The friends over at the White House, thus far, have not been asked about this. Someone needs to ask what topics they were discussing, because thus far we have no idea. Not that the answer is likely to be useful, but still...
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Issandr El Amrani

Issandr El Amrani is a Cairo-based writer and consultant. His reporting and commentary on the Middle East and North Africa has appeared in The Economist, London Review of Books, Financial Times, The National, The Guardian, Time and other publications. He also publishes one of the longest-running blog in the region, www.arabist.net.