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US lifts freeze, will deliver Apache choppers to Egypt

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

The United States will lift a suspension on the delivery of Apache helicopters to Egypt after concluding Cairo has upheld its peace treaty with Israel, US officials said Tuesday.

Despite concerns about Egypt's failure to embrace democratic reforms following the ouster of president Mohamed Morsi, the US government will provide Cairo with 10 Apache aircraft, the Pentagon said.

Hagel informed Egyptian Defense Minister General Sedki Sobhy of President Barack Obama's decision in a phone call earlier Tuesday, spokesman Rear Admiral John Kirby said in a statement.

The choppers are meant to bolster "counterterrorism operations in the Sinai," he said.

"The secretary noted that we believe these new helicopters will help the Egyptian government counter extremists who threaten US, Egyptian, and Israeli security," the statement said.

The move was part of broader US efforts to help countries counter terror threats in the region, it said.

To signal its displeasure with Cairo's crackdown on dissent, the Obama administration had imposed a temporary freeze on the delivery of major weapons to Egypt, including the Apache helicopters as well as fighter jets and other hardware.

Hagel told his counterpart that US Secretary of State John Kerry will "soon certify to Congress that Egypt is sustaining the strategic relationship with the United States and is meeting its obligations under the 1979 Egypt-Israel Peace Treaty," Kirby said.

The certifications are required before US government funds can be allocated to Egypt, he said.

Hagel, however, told the Egyptian minister that "we are not yet able to certify that Egypt is taking steps to support a democratic transition," Kirby said.

Hagel "urged the Egyptian government to demonstrate progress on a more inclusive transition that respects the human rights and fundamental freedoms of all Egyptians."

Kerry delivered a similar message to Egyptian Foreign Minister Nabil Fahmy, according to State Department spokeswoman Jen Psaki.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/140423/us-lifts-freeze-will-deliver-apache-choppers-egypt