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US Embassy Cancels Funding for Egyptian Police Soccer Program

The U.S. Embassy in Cairo has cancelled plans to fund an Egyptian Interior Ministry youth soccer mentorship program because of the ministry’s brutal use of police and security forces to crackdown on protesters that earlier this month forced President Hosni Mubarak to resign after 30 years in office. In a letter to Congress obtained by The Cable, a Foreign Policy magazine blog, State Department Assistant Secretary for Legislative Affarirs Richard Verma said that "based on the events of the past week, questions have arisen about the appropriateness and feasibility of proceeding at this time with the proposed youth soccer mentorship program in Egypt. Verma noted that “there are questions about the role of the Egyptian Ministry of Interior and the Egyptian Police in recent events. Before proceeding with a youth engagement activity involving the two organizations, additional time for the situation to settle is needed." Interior ministry forces are believed to be responsible for most of the 365 deaths of protesters over a period of 18 days of demonstrations that finally resulted in Mubarak’s departure. Verma’s letter was intended to withdraw his earlier notification on January 25, the day the mass protests erupted in Egypt, that the State Department had allocated $667,200 for the soccer program from its fiscal 2010 budget for non-proliferation, anti-terrorism, demining, and related programs (NADR). The cancellation came as Ittihad El-Shorta (Police Union), a top-tier Egyptian soccer club owned by the police, sought to distance itself from the interior ministry. “The team is independent from the Ministry of Interior; we’re a separate sports entity that has nothing to do with politics. So please there is no need to be hostile against our club,” Egyptian soccer website quoted Ittihad El-Shorta manager Talaat Youssef as saying. Youssef said several of the clubs players had joined the protesters on Cairo’s Tahrir Square.

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