Egypt pulls plug on US lobby firms

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The Independent Online

Egypt's Foreign Ministry yesterday said it had ended a contract with three Washington-based lobbying firms to cut expenses, denying reports that the American companies were the ones to terminate the contract.

The rupture occurred as Cairo faced criticism from the US for banning at least 10 Americans and Europeans from leaving the country as part of a probe into foreign-funded civil society organisations. Among those barred was Sam LaHood of the International Republican Institute, who happens to be the son of US Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.

The ban sparked anger in the US, which warned last week that the campaign raised concerns about Egypt's transition to democracy and could jeopardise vital, American aid.

The travel ban was part of an Egyptian criminal investigation into foreign-funded democracy organisations after soldiers raided the offices of 10 such groups last month.