US Withholds Aid from Egypt Over Rights Concerns
U.S.-Egypt ties, which had improved under President Donald Trump, appeared strained Wednesday after the United States withheld some aid to Egypt over human rights concerns.
The U.S. cut nearly $100 million in economic and military aid, and delayed nearly $200 million more in military financing to Egypt, one of the largest recipients of U.S. foreign aid.
U.S. officials, speaking on background, cited Egypt's failure to make human rights improvements or relax harsh restrictions on civic and other non-governmental organizations.
Cairo's foreign ministry slammed the decision, calling it "a misjudgment of the nature of the strategic relations that binds the two countries over decades."
Egypt was also reported to have canceled a meeting between visiting White House advisor Jared Kushner and Egypt's foreign minister Sameh Shoukry. But Egypt's foreign ministry later released a video via Twitter of Kushner and his team meeting with Shoukry, with both delegations smiling for the cameras and laughing.
Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, is in Cairo as part of an effort to revive Mideast peace talks. He also met Wednesday with Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi. A statement from Sissi's office did not mention the aid cuts. It highlighted Egypt's desire to work on strengthening relations between the two countries.
Trump has embraced Sissi as a key partner in the global war against Islamist extremism, downplaying concerns over his human rights record. During an April meeting at the White House, Trump was effusive in his praise for Sissi.
"I just want to let everyone know, in case there was any doubt, that we are very much behind President el-Sissi," Trump said. "He's done a fantastic job in a very difficult situation."
Dutch Cancel Rock Concert After Terror Warning
Officials in the Dutch port city of Rotterdam canceled a performance by the American rock group Allah-Las following a tip from Spanish police that a terror attack may have been imminent.
Rotterdam Mayor Ahmed Aboutaleb said at a hastily arranged news conference that police were questioning the driver of a van loaded with gas tanks that was found near the concert venue. The vehicle was registered in Spain.
Concert organizer Rotown said on Twitter that the concert venue, a former grain silo called Maassilo, was evacuated. The decision to cancel the event was made less than an hour before doors were to open to the public.
Dutch television images from Maassilo showed officers wearing body armor, escorting a group believed to be members of the band, whose name refers to the Islamic deity.
The Allah-Las group is from Los Angeles. The four musicians told the British newspaper The Guardian last year that they chose Allah, the Arabic name for God, for their group's name because they wanted something "holy sounding," and did not realize it might cause offense.