WASHINGTON: Top US Senator John McCain said Saturday that a diplomatic row with Egypt over the planned trial in Cairo of several workers from American pro-democracy groups can be resolved within days.
"I am hopeful that before we get there, we can have the issue resolved. If not, obviously it will be our highest priority," McCain, who said he planned to head to Egypt in the coming week for talks, told Fox News.
"Americans not being able to leave the country that is supposed to be our ally is an important issue. And so we intend to raise it in our meetings," said McCain, referring to workers from the US groups.
Egyptian judicial sources said last Sunday that 44 people, including 19 Americans, would stand trial over the alleged illegal funding of non-government organizations promoting Egypt’s fledgling democracy after the overthrow of long time leader Hosni Mubarak.
McCain was one of several US lawmakers on Tuesday who vented their anger over the planned trial, saying Egypt risked a "disastrous" rupture in ties should it go ahead.
The aid workers are accused of "setting up branches of international organizations in Egypt without a license from the Egyptian government" and of "receiving illegal foreign funding."
Cairo prosecutors in December stormed the offices of the US-funded International Republican Institute, the National Democratic Institute and Freedom House as part of a probe into allegations of illegal foreign funding.
They were among 17 offices of local and international NGOs raided. The crackdown was part of a wider campaign by Egypt’s military rulers to silence dissent after months of criticism of its human rights record, analysts said.
Since December, ties between the United States and Egypt’s interim military rulers have become strained, and Washington has raised the possibility it could withhold military aid worth $1.3 billion a year.