State Department official: Egypt aid not in jeopardy, though US having 'frank' talks

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Published September 14, 2012

| FoxNews.com

A senior State Department official tells Fox News the United States' $1.6 billion annual aid to Egypt, the large majority of which goes to the Egyptian military, is not in jeopardy of being withdrawn at this time. "We are having some very frank conversations" with the Egyptians, the aide said. 

The U.S. military maintains close, strong and direct contact with Egypt's military, the official said, adding that diplomatic contact between the two nations also continues "at all levels," up to and including Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, whom the aide said had placed calls to top Egyptian officials in the past 72 hours. 

Another senior administration official confirmed a New York Times account that President Obama did indeed place a phone call to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi and discuss with him the need for Egypt to take adequate steps to protect U.S. personnel in the country. Obama additionally asked Morsi to make a public statement -- and the U.S. president is "greatly appreciative" that Morsi did so, the official said. 

The State Department aide told Fox News that "things are looking better" at the U.S. embassies in the Middle East today.  "We had feared for today," the aide said, because demonstrators in that region typically stage their protests -- or riots -- following Friday prayers. "It's not looking as bad as we were originally concerned about." 

While protests continue at Tahrir Square, "things around the Embassy are calm," the official said.  He added: "We had the Muslim Brotherhood issue a statement, which called on Muslims to protect the embassies, and form human barriers around them in the event anyone tries to attack them."  The official also noted Morsi's appearance on Egyptian television, in which the newly elected Muslim Brotherhood leader cited the "duties of Muslims" to protect "guests" in their country. 

The official said they are still keeping a close eye on the American Embassy in Yemen, but "even there, things are better than yesterday." 

The official also cited the continued Egyptian collaboration with Israel along the Sinai as evidence of a qualifiedly positive attitude on the part of the government in Cairo. 

The official, though, could not confirm that the Libyan authorities have made arrests in the killing of the four U.S. personnel including the ambassador this week, and instead referred Fox News to the FBI for comment.  However, the aide said U.S. authorities are "satisfied" with the cooperation they are receiving from the Libyans.

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