US presses on with F-16 transfer to Egypt

Reluctance to call overthrow of Mohamed Morsi a coup leaves US free to continue lavish military aid

The United States plans to go through with the delivery of four F-16 fighter jets to Egypt in the coming weeks, US defence officials have said, even after the Egyptian military brought down president Mohamed Morsi.

Washington has trodden a careful line, neither welcoming Morsi’s removal nor denouncing it as a “coup”, saying it needs time to weigh the situation.

Branding his overthrow a coup would, by US law, require Washington to halt aid to the Egyptian military, which receives the lion’s share of the $1.5bn in annual US assistance to that country.

The jets, which are likely to be delivered in August and are built by Lockheed Martin, are part of the annual aid package, a US defence official said.

“There is no current change in the plan to deliver F-16s to the Egyptian military,” a second US official told Reuters on condition of anonymity.

Asked about the F-16s, White House spokesman Jay Carney said: “It’s our view that we should not … hastily change our aid programs.” He directed specific questions about the jets to the defence department.

The Pentagon, responding to queries by reporters, later issued a statement echoing President Barack Obama’s comments on 3 July that he had ordered a review of US assistance to Egypt. Asked whether Obama’s review had put the F-16 delivery on hold, one of the US officials told Reuters: “The delivery remains scheduled as planned.”

Lockheed Martin, the Pentagon’s biggest supplier, declined to comment.

Egypt has been one of the world’s largest recipients of US aid since it signed the 1979 peace treaty with Israel.

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