Relationship between Egypt, United States reaches a boiling point

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Fayza Mohamed Abul Naga, left, pictured greeting then-Japanese Prime Minister Junichiro Koizumi in December 2002, is behind the prosecution of Egyptian nonprofits that are accused of violating a Hosni Mubarak-era law banning foreign funding of nonprofits.

“American Funding Aims to Spread Anarchy in Egypt”  was plastered across the cover of one of Egypt’s state-owned papers, al-Ahram, Tuesday mornings.

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Similar headlines dominated the other papers.

The papers all were citing comments by Egyptian cabinet minister Fayza Abul Naga — a holdover from the Egyptian government under President Hosni Mubarak.

Abul Naga declared that the United States was trying to “abort any chance for Egypt to emerge as a modern democratic state” and she suggested America was acting in Israel’s interest.

Abul Naga is overseeing the investigation of American funding of civil society groups in Egypt. Nineteen Americans have been barred from leaving the country until the investigation is complete. At least three of the suspects have taken shelter in the US embassy — and many others made it out before the travel restrictions were imposed.

Congress is threatening to cut U.S. aid to Egypt — more than a billion dollars — in retaliation for the continued investigation. But so far, that pressure isn't have any impact on Abul Naga, even though it's making the ruling military council very nervous.

David Kirkpatrick, a reporter for The New York Times, said Abul Naga is directly defying Egypt’s ruling military council. Kirkpatrick said Abul Naga has ignored warnings from Field Marshal Tantawi, head of the military council, to tone it down.

She's “coming out with both barrels,” Kirkpatrick said.

Her comments are proving extremely popular with the public, though, perhaps laying the foundation for her political career. That's important, Kirkpatrick wrote, because the transition to civilian government will remove the general from power and could cost Abul Naga her job as well.

Her defiance, Kirkpatrick said, calls into question “how much control the ruling generals have over their own government at the moment.”

Kirkpatrick said the crisis in relations between Cairo and Washington is “very serious.”

It could lead to “a real rupture in that 30-year old alliance which has been a lynchpin of Mid-East peace," Kirkpatrick said.

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