US leaders hesitant over political developments in Egypt

Top figures in Washington DC have expressed concern over the Egyptian Supreme Court’s ruling to dissolve the parliament and other political events in Egypt in recent days, saying they could influence US aid to the country.

“The recent decision by the Egyptian court obviously throws into question the future of the transition,” said Senator Patrick Leahy in a statement on his website. “Parliament has been dissolved and the military has reaffirmed martial law and has assumed whatever authority the Parliament had.”

Leahy chairs the budget committee for the State Department and foreign aid and operations, and is the author of the new conditions on US military aid to Egypt.

On Thursday, the Supreme Constitutional Court ruled that the Parliamentary Elections Law was unconstitutional because of an article allowing political parties to field candidates for the one-third of parliamentary seats reserved for independents.

Farouk Sultan, the head of the court, said Thursday that as a result of the ruling, Parliament is null and void under the law. He added that an order from the military council was not required for Parliament to be dissolved because it was dissolved by the ruling. All laws passed by Parliament since it convened will remain in place, he said.

Also on Thursday, the same court ruled against a political isolation law that would prevent former prime minister under Mubarak, Ahmed Shafiq, from running in the presidential runoff. In addition, Justice Minister Adel Abdel Hamid announced on Wednesday that military police and intelligence officers have been granted the same powers as judicial police when dealing with civilians suspected of offenses relating to national security and public order, which has been largely seen as an extension of the hated emergency law which existed under Mubarak.

These procedures will be in place in until a new constitution is approved, Hamid said.

The series of events has worried Washington. Though US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton earlier this year allowed US-Egypt military aid to resume, contract-by-contract decisions are ongoing.  

These, Leahy said, could come into question if Egypt does not come under civilian rule by the ruling general's deadline.

“I have made clear to the State Department that, despite the earlier waiver of the conditions I authored, I would not want to see the US government write checks for contracts with Egypt’s military under the present uncertain circumstances,” he said.

Clinton also called for a full transfer of power to elected civilians on Friday.

"There can be no going back on the democratic transition called for by the Egyptian people," she told reporters in Washington.

The State Department said separately that it was "troubled" by the court ruling ordering Parliament dissolved and was looking into its implications.

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