Wednesday, February 2, 2011

Egypt's army will block Islamist state: US senator


WASHINGTON (AFP) - Egypt's US-backed army will prevent Islamists from ever controlling that country's government, a US Senator said Tuesday, stressing Americans must not be "ashamed" of backing that military.

"Every American should be very appreciative of the fact that for years we've been providing aid to the Egyptian army in terms of equipment and training, because that army is our ace in the hole, as a world, to make sure Egypt doesn't go into a radical state," said Republican Senator Lindsey Graham.

Asked whether he meant the army would step in should Egyptian voters pick an Islamist government, Graham replied: "It is my belief that the Egyptian army will protect the Egyptian people from becoming a radical Islamic state."

"That is my hope, that is my prayer," Graham, a member of the US Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters. "So the fact that we provided the aid to their military is not something we should be ashamed of."

Graham also praised the way President Barack Obama and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton for doing "a very good job" of handling the crisis thus far, but called for a global "plan" to bring about a smooth political transition.

"We've come to the point where we need to be articulating a plan that is bought into by the Egyptian people. Because if we go another week without a plan, I really worry that this thing is going to spin out of control," he said.

His comments came as a popular uprising to oust Egyptian President Hosni Mubark entered its second week, with massive tides of peaceful protesters flooding Cairo and Egypt's second city Alexandria.

"I think the international community, the Arab world, can all come up with a plan to give the Egyptian people something that is not unfair for them to ask for: an elected, representative government and free and fair elections, something they haven't had in 30 years," said Graham.

"The days of autocratic rule are probably history and that's a good thing," he said, praising the protesters for "trying to advance Egypt, to try to make it a more enlightened society, a more modern society."

"My message to the Egyptian people: You're being heard by the world. Choose wisely when your chance to choose comes," said Graham.

Graham blasted fellow Republicans who have called for deep cuts in foreign aid, notably to staunch US ally Israel and Egypt, saying that would happen "over my dead body."

"We live in a dangerous world and foreign aid, foreign assistance is in our national security interest," he said. "If you cut that aid, you will be cutting your own throat."

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