Washington continues to push for Egypt reconciliation, says Hagel

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U.S. Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel said on Wednesday that Washington will continue to push for national reconciliation in Egypt, adding that he opposes cutting off military aid to Egypt.

“The interim government has to get back on the path to reconciliation, stop the violence, put Egypt back on the path of economic, democratic reform,” Hagel said in an interview with the BBC aired Wednesday.

“Now do you do that best by cutting off all aid?” he asked, not ruling out eventually shutting off the flow of $1.3 billion in annual military aid to Cairo.

Hagel condemned Egyptian security forces for firing on protesters backing ousted president Mohammad Mursi, in a crackdown on protester camps that left nearly hundreds dead earlier this month.

“Maybe eventually that happens, but I don’t think you can take that approach initially, you have to respond and we’ve made it clear what we’d like to see happen,” said Hagel.

“We’ve had strong partnerships with Egypt for many years starting with the peace treaty between Israel and Egypt that the U.S. brokered in 1979 that essentially prevented the region from breaking out into a regional war,” he said.

“Egypt has played a responsible part of that, been a very responsible partner.”

The United States “wouldn’t necessarily agree with the forms of government, the dictatorships, but... we would not want to see the disintegration of a relationship with a large important country like Egypt,” he said.

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