Suspended aid to Egypt to cost millions

The Obama administration may be forced to pay out millions of dollars in storage costs and contractor fees tied to several big-ticket weapon sales to Egypt that were indefinitely suspended by the White House on Wednesday. 

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"There are costs associated with the suspension of some programs," State Department spokeswoman Margie Harf said. 

"If there's physical equipment we do not deliver, we will evaluate each situation on a case-by-case basis to determine the most appropriate disposition of any equipment," she told reporters at the State Department on Thursday. "Some equipment could be put in storage, for example, while we continue to assess the situation."

The department is the lead agency responsible for coordinating and overseeing foreign sales of U.S. military hardware. 

That said, U.S. military and diplomatic leaders "will ... continue to meet our obligations" with the U.S. defense firms tied to the suspended military sales to Cairo. 

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"Where programs conflict with the policy objectives we have outlined, we will work with U.S. vendors to ensure that any issues are resolved consistent with the terms of the individual contract," Harf said.

The White House shelved multibillion-dollar sales of F-16 fighter jets, M1 Abrams tanks and Apache attack helicopters to Cairo as part of the administration's "recalibration" of U.S.-Egyptian ties. 

The decision "sends a pretty clear message" to the Egyptian interim government that it must end its violent crackdown on opposition forces and end the political turmoil in the country, a White House official said shortly after the suspension of the weapon sales. 

Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel informed Egyptian Defense Minister Gen. Abdel Fattah al-Sisi of the military aid suspensions on Wednesday. 

Hagel informed al-Sisi the Pentagon will also continue to train and mentor the Egyptian armed forces in anti-terrorism, border security and other missions critical to the country's security.

In August, Obama canceled deliveries of F-16 fighters to the North African country, as well as a large-scale military exercise between American and Egyptian forces, known as Bright Star, in response to the violence. 

Harf could not provide a specific price tag on the costs tied to the canceled military sales to Egypt, but she reiterated the administration could restart those sales if the interim government complies with Washington's demands. 

"But when you add up the categories of things that we've mentioned will be held, it adds up to the hundreds of millions of dollars in military assistance" now on the shelf, she added. 

The suspension of U.S. military sales and foreign aid put in place Wednesday is reversible, a second administration official said. 

"This is not meant to be permanent, this is meant to be continually reviewed" and not presented as "definitive end to any specific [military] programs," the official said Wednesday. 

Sales "will be restored at some point," but only after Cairo shows progress toward a peaceful and stable political transition, the official added.

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