PM Ganzouri, Al-Azhar grand sheikh back campaign to replace US aid

Prime Minister Kamal al-Ganzouri on Thursday said his government supports the "Egypt Aid" fundraising campaign aimed at replacing US aid to Egypt. Al-Azhar Grand Sheikh Ahmed al-Tayyeb also agreed to back the campaign, state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported.

“The initiative reveals the good nature of the Egyptian people that comes out in times of crises,” said Minister of Planning and International Cooperation Fayza Abouelnaga, state-run MENA news agency reported.

“Financial contributions are already starting to flow,” Abouelnaga added.

Prominent Salafi preacher Mohamed Hassan, a champion of the initiative, met with Ganzouri and Abouelnaga on Thursday.

Tayyeb reportedly lent his support to the effort during a meeting in his office with Hassan. Sheikh Abdel Hady Qasaby, a Sufi leader, and Mahmoud al-Sharif, who heads the Ashraf Syndicate, an association of descendants of Prophet Mohamed, also attended the meeting.

Tayyeb said he considers the initiative a response to mounting US attempts to increase pressure on Egyptian authorities by threatening to halt aid, and to widen its influence in Egypt.

The US warnings have come in response to Egypt’s prosecution of 43 local and foreign NGO employees over charges of illegal funding. The recent crackdown on the organizations has increased tension between the countries and prompted calls by some US lawmakers to end aid. Since 1979, Egypt has received about US$1.3 billion in military aid, on top of additional civilian funding.

Tayyeb urged Egyptians at home and abroad to participate in the campaign, saying Al-Azhar will establish a fund to collect donations.

Sharif said the fund aims to raise between LE500 billion and LE1 trillion.

"I swear to God that the Egyptian people can in one night raise a hundred times more than the trivial US aid," Hassan said in an interview with state-run TV Saturday, after which fundraising efforts began in several governorates.

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