- U.S. officials warn Egypt that aid could suffer if NGO campaign continues
- Egyptian authorities announced plans Sunday to prosecute 43 people accused of illegal funding
- That includes 19 Americans, some of whom are taking refuge at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo
- U.S. officials engaging Egyptian counterparts "at every level," White House spokesman says
U.S. aid to Egypt could suffer if Egypt persists in prosecuting 43 people, including 19 Americans, in a crackdown on nongovernmental organizations, White House and State Department officials said Monday.
"We have underscored how serious a problem these actions are. We have said clearly that these actions could have consequences for our relationship, including regarding our assistance programs," White House spokesman Jay Carney told reporters.
State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland reiterated the message moments later in a separate briefing. She declined to speculate about possible consequences but said the dispute "is a very, very difficult situation in terms of the support we want to provide Egypt."
Egyptian authorities carried out 17 raids on the offices of 10 NGOs in December. A spokesman with the general prosecutor's office said the raids were part of an investigation into allegations that the groups had received illegal foreign financing and were operating without a proper license.
Three U.S.-based organizations were part of the raids.
Among the 19 Americans referred to a court for prosecution is Sam LaHood, International Republican Institute country director and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood, according to Adel Saeed, a spokesman for the general prosecutor.
Some of those facing charges have taken shelter at the U.S. Embassy in Cairo, Nuland said.
"The number has grown slightly," she said, declining to provide additional details.
The groups targeted have operated in Egypt for years, and none funded candidates or parties, Nuland said.
"There is nothing new in their activities," she said.
President Barack Obama has spoken to Field Marshal Mohamed Tantawi, head of Egypt's ruling military council, about the issue, and Defense Secretary Leon Panetta and U.S. Ambassador Anne Patterson have also spoken with high-ranking Egyptian officials to voice their concern, U.S. officials have said.
"You can be sure we are engaging with the Egyptian government on this issue at every level," Carney said Monday.
In a February 2 letter to Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and Panetta, 41 members of Congress urged the administration to withhold further aid to Egypt until the country's leadership lets the offices of those organizations reopen and returns seized property.
The United States sends more than $1.3 billion each year in military aid to Egypt, according to the U.S. State Department. Since 1975, the U.S. Agency for International Development has provided more than $28 billion in economic and development assistance to the country.