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LaHood's son barred from leaving Egypt

Jan. 26, 2012 at 9:52 AM   |   Comments

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CAIRO, Jan. 26 (UPI) -- Authorities are not allowing a group of American citizens that includes the son of Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood from leaving Egypt, Politico reported.

The decision to place the Americans on a no-fly list followed a raid by Egyptian authorities on the offices of U.S.-backed organizations monitoring parliamentary elections in Egypt, the report said.

Sam LaHood -- director of the Egyptian program for the International Republican Institute -- was refused permission to board a plane to leave Cairo Saturday. He and at least two other U.S. citizens are caught in what Politico described as a power struggle between Washington and Cairo.

The report said President Barack Obama and other top U.S. officials have intervened but have been unable to resolve the dispute over Sam LaHood's group -- a non-governmental organization associated with Republican congressional leaders.

Politico reported this week three top Washington lobbyists -- Bob Livingston, Toby Moffett and Tony Podesta -- have been working on Egypt's behalf to place responsibility for the standoff on the NGOs.

Lorne Craner, president of IRI, told Politico Sam LaHood and the other Americans were not told a reason for their detention and they were permitted to keep their passports.

"What we have heard is that they are amongst those the [Egyptian] government, the judges, who have been charged with prosecuting the case against IRI, have decided should not be allowed to leave the country," Craner said Wednesday.

Several months ago, the military-led government initiated an investigation into the foreign funding of Egyptian non-profits, and recent police raids netted confiscated files, computers and money from groups such as the International Republican Institute and its sister organization, the National Democratic Institute, which both promoting electoral democracy, The New York Times said.

Relations between the United States and Cairo are tense, officials told the Times. Washington has been urging the council of generals that took power after former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted last year to hand over authority to civilians quickly. Lawmakers have said want to add conditions on the more than $3 billion a year in military aide the United States sends Egypt.

Meanwhile, the military council has been hinting that the United States may have been funding human rights and democracy-building groups that want to destabilize Egypt.

A State Department official confirmed "several" Americans were among a group of people denied permission to leave Egypt but did not confirm Sam LaHood was among them.

"We are disappointed that these restrictions were imposed, and we are working with the government of Egypt to lift them and allow these Americans to come home as quickly as possible," the officials said. "We hope to have this issue resolved within the next couple of days."

Ray LaHood declined to comment, Politico said.

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