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Clinton Slams House Foreign Aid Bill, Threatens Veto

Secretary of State Clinton blasts proposed bill to limit foreign aid to Egypt, Lebanon, and the Palestinian Authority, threatens to veto.
By Elad Benari
First Publish: 7/28/2011, 1:17 AM / Last Update: 7/28/2011, 2:07 AM

U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton is blasting a proposed House bill that would impose strict new requirements on U.S. foreign aid to Egypt, Lebanon, Pakistan, Yemen, and the Palestinian Authority, The Washington Post reported on Wednesday.

In a letter she wrote to members of the House Foreign Affairs committee, Clinton claimed the bill “would be debilitating to my efforts to carry out a considered foreign policy and diplomacy, and to use foreign assistance strategically to that end.”

The bill, which was passed by the committee last week, was authored by Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-FL), the House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair. It seeks to defund Pakistan, Lebanon, the Palestinian Authority, Yemen and others by attaching stringent conditions to United States assistance that are not likely to be met.

The Pakistanis, for example, would need to prove that they are assisting in an investigation on who gave sanctuary to Osama bin Laden. Lebanon will not receive assistance if a Hizbullah member occupies a top government or policy post (they dominate the cabinet).The Palestinian Authority must terminate incitements in the media and in the schools while Yemen must be free of human rights abuses.

While the bill is not expected to pass the Senate, The Washington Post said that it is a marker of the Republicans’ foreign-policy priorities in the upcoming 2012 budget battle.

In the letter she wrote, a copy of which was obtained by The Post, Clinton criticized what she termed the legislation’s “onerous restrictions” on department operations and foreign aid and the “severe curtailing” of dues owed to international organizations.

She wrote that the bill’s ban on aid to countries that don’t meet certain anti-corruption standards “has the potential to affect a staggering number of needy aid recipients.” She also protested the “crippling restrictions on security assistance” to Egypt, Lebanon, Yemen and the Palestinian Authority.

Clinton also warned that she will urge a veto if the measure reaches President Barack Obama’s desk.

In May, the United States along with Qatar and the World Bank pledged to give billions of dollars in aid to Egypt and Tunisia, in order to help the two countries boost their economies following the revolutions which toppled the old regimes there.

As part of the measures, Obama promised to relieve Egypt of $1 billion in debt, and offered an additional $1 billion in loans to improve infrastructure and create new jobs.

But while hope was expressed that the overthrow of long-term authoritarian rulers in Egypt and Tunisia will lead to economic integration similar to that in eastern Europe in the 1990s, the aid was given before the world really knew what would happen in both countries.

In Egypt, mayhem continues as do the protests at Cairo’s Tahrir Square. Earlier this week, police and hired thugs attacked many protesters during an attempted march on the headquarters of the military headquarters in a Cairo district.

Demonstrators have staged rallies in different parts of the country the past two weeks to vent frustration over the lack of reforms and a change from the ruthless policies and corruption that marked the Hosni Mubarak regime.

Meanwhile, in new ‘democratic’ Tunisia, one of the first acts of the commission of political reform was to ensure there will be no future diplomatic ties with the State of Israel.

The Republicans responded to Clinton’s angry letter on Wednesday. Brad Goehner, a spokesman for Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, told The Washington Post that, “It’s disappointing, particularly given the current debt crisis, that the Obama administration is fighting to keep sending taxpayer money to foreign organizations and governments that undermine U.S. interests.”