Egypt claims it ended contract with US lobbyists

Egypt's Foreign Ministry said in a statement Sunday that it has ended a contract with three Washington lobbying firms to cut expenses, denying reports that the firms were the ones to have terminated the contract.

The rupture occurred as Cairo comes under criticism in Washington for banning at least 10 Americans and Europeans from leaving the country as part of an investigation into foreign-funded civil society organizations.

Among those barred was Sam LaHood of the U.S.-based International Republican Institute, who is the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The Egyptian Foreign Ministry's statement was issued two days after Politico reported that former Republican Rep. Bob Livingston, former Democratic Rep. Toby Moffett and longtime lobbyist Tony Podesta ended their contract with the Egyptian government.

The lobbying firms could not be reached immediately for comment. Meanwhile, a delegation from Egypt's Defense Ministry has arrived in New York, Cairo's state news agency reported.

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MENA quoted military attache Gen. Mohammed el-Kishki as saying that the visit was aimed at discussing "cooperation between the two countries in military affairs." Egypt's military, which took power after the February 2011 ouster of Hosni Mubarak, receives $1.3 billion a year in U.S. foreign assistance.

The country's aid package has come under pressure by members of Congress who want assurances that Egypt will abide by a 1979 peace treaty with Israel, and that the military rulers will respect democratic freedoms.