Egyptian Defense Minister Head For Washington
CAIRO, Egypt (AP) _ Egypt’s defense minister left Thursday for Washington to seek increased U.S. military aid and a write-off of $3.7 billion in military debts, officials said.
Field Marshal Abdel-Halim Abu-Ghazala, who will arrive in Washington on Saturday after a stopover in London, was scheduled to meet with Defense Secretary Caspar Weinberger and other U.S. officials.
Egyptian officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the discussions will focus on Egypt’s bid for increased military assistance, a write-off of military debts and the delivery schedule for 40 F-16 warplanes.
They said Abu-Ghazala’s talks will set the stage for next month’s visit to Washington by President Hosni Mubarak.
Prime Minister Kamal Hassan Aly said in a recent newspaper interview that Egypt wants nearly $1 billion in additional aid for the upcoming fiscal year, which starts Oct. 1.
Egypt is getting nearly $2.2 billion in the current fiscal year - about $1 billion in economic and food aid and nearly $1.2 billion in military assistance.
The Reagan administration asked Congress for about $110 million in additional military aid for Egypt in its budget proposal for the next fiscal year.
Mubarak, when asked whether he was satisfied with that amount, replied, ″Of course not.″
The sources said that in addition to pushing for more money, Abu-Ghazala will try to persuade the Reagan administration to write-off Egyptian military debts because they were a burden on the Egyptian economy.
The total debt principal stands at $3.7 billion, according to U.S. Embassy figures. Payments on the principal will start in 1989, but interest has had to be paid since the military aid program began in 1979 after conclusion of the Egyptian-Israeli peace treaty.
Embassy figures show that interest costs in the current fiscal year will amount to $450 million to $500 million.
U.S. arms supplies to Egypt have included F-4 Phantom bombers, F-16 jet fighters, M-60 tanks, Hawk anti-aircraft missiles and four E-2C Hawkeye radar early warning planes.
Lt. Gen. Mohammed Hilmy, commander of the Egyptian air force, said in a recent magazine interview that Egypt has taken delivery of 80 F-16s and that an additional 40 were to be delivered by the end of this year.