Reuters Highlights Criticisms of Raids on IRI’s Offices in Egypt

Obama talks civic freedoms, IMF with Egypt’s Tantawi
By Alister Bull

WASHINGTON — President Barack Obama stressed U.S. support for Egypt’s move to democracy and discussed its International Monetary Fund talks in a telephone conversation on Friday with Egyptian military council chief Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, the White House said.

“The president reinforced the necessity of upholding universal principles and emphasized the important role that civil society, including non-governmental organizations, have in a democratic society,” the White House said in a statement.

“He underscored that non-governmental organizations should be able to operate freely.”

Washington was sharply critical earlier this month of raids by Egyptian authorities on pro-democracy groups, but laid the blame on remnants of former President Hosni Mubarak, who was toppled from power last year by massive street protests.

Egyptian authorities swooped in on 17 non-governmental groups, including the U.S.-funded National Democratic Institute and International Republican Institute, which are both loosely affiliated with the leading U.S. political parties.

Obama also discussed Egypt’s economic outlook with Tantawi. Egypt has asked the IMF for $3.2 billion in support and an MF delegation is due to visit in late January.

The country turned down an offer of $3 billion in financial assistance from the IMF last June, but since then Egypt’s funding problems have worsened and its currency has come under heavy pressure.

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