Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson

International correspondent Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson is based in Berlin and covers Central Europe for NPR. Her reports can be heard on NPR's award-winning programs including Morning Edition and All Things Considered.

She was previously based in Cairo and covered the Arab World for NPR from the Middle East to North Africa. Nelson returns to Egypt on occasion to cover the tumultuous transition to democracy there.

In 2006, Nelson opened the NPR Kabul Bureau. During the following three and a half years, she gave listeners in an in-depth sense of life inside Afghanistan, from the increase in suicide among women in a country that treats them as second class citizens to the growing interference of Iran and Pakistan in Afghan affairs. For her coverage of Afghanistan, she won a Peabody Award, Overseas Press Club Award and the Gracie in 2010. She received the Elijah Parish Lovejoy Award from Colby College in 2011 for her coverage in the Middle East and Afghanistan.

Nelson spent 20 years as newspaper reporter, including as Knight Ridder's Middle East Bureau Chief. While at the Los Angeles Times, she was sent on extended assignment to Iran and Afghanistan following the Sept. 11, 2001 terrorist attacks. She spent three years an editor and reporter for Newsday and was part of the team that won the 1997 Pulitzer Prize for covering the crash of TWA Flight 800.

A graduate of the University of Maryland, Nelson speaks Farsi, Dari and German.

Pages

Afghanistan
6:03 pm
Fri September 28, 2012

Iran Turns To Afghanistan When Laundering Money

Originally published on Fri September 28, 2012 6:15 pm

There may be international sanctions against Iran, but not in Afghanistan's border provinces with the Islamic Republic where trade and money-laundering are thriving. Every day, millions in Iranian currency are brought in by taxis ferrying passengers. The Iranian money is exchanged for dollars, which are then shipped back to Iran. American officials recently ordered the Afghan banks to crack down on this phenomenon and it appears to be having some effect.

Afghanistan
4:56 pm
Fri September 14, 2012

Amid Strains, U.S. Begins Wind-Down In Afghanistan

A U.S. soldier shares grapes with Afghan boys in the southern province of Kandahar on Wednesday.
Tony Karumba AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Fri September 14, 2012 5:50 pm

When the U.S. military handed over the detention center at Bagram Air Field to Afghan authorities this week, it symbolized an American role that is winding down β€” and the uncomfortable relationship between the two countries.

The prison, where Taliban and terrorism suspects are housed, has been a sore point for Afghans for years.

At the ceremony, an announcer read the names of Bagram prisoners who the Afghans said were wrongly detained and were now being freed.

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Afghanistan
5:17 am
Mon September 10, 2012

U.S. Hands Over Control Of Bagram Prison To Kabul

Originally published on Mon September 10, 2012 7:49 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

It's MORNING EDITION, from NPR News. I'm Steve Inskeep.

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

And I'm Renee Montagne. The largest U.S. prison in Afghanistan - containing over 3,000 inmates - was handed over to Afghan control this morning. But the transfer was not without controversy. Several dozen prisoners, including some foreign terrorist suspects, were kept in American custody.

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Afghanistan
3:21 am
Tue September 4, 2012

Afghans Seek A Homegrown Plan For Security

An Afghan man inspects a motorcycle used in a suicide attack in a parking lot holding dozens of trucks supplying the NATO-run Kandahar Air Base in June. Bombings and assassinations are on the rise in Kandahar. Last month, a suicide bomber struck the convoy of the provincial police chief, Gen. Abdul Raziq, who was severely injured.
AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Tue September 4, 2012 12:38 pm

For years, Kandahar province has been a key focus of NATO's efforts to stabilize Afghanistan. The volatile region is the birthplace of the Taliban, and its capital is the country's second-largest city.

American troops have begun leaving this area by the thousands and are handing security responsibilities over to Afghan forces. Afghan officials claim things are getting better.

But many residents don't trust Western forces or their own government's claims, and they are now turning to a third party for help.

A Dangerous City

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Afghanistan
5:34 pm
Mon September 3, 2012

For Afghan Girl, Going To School Is Act Of Bravery

Afghan girls walk home from school in Kunduz province earlier this year. Despite progress in recent years, girls who want an education face threats from the Taliban and other extremists, and sometimes even their own families.
Johannes Eisele AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Mon September 3, 2012 7:05 pm

In Afghanistan, girls are required by law to go to school. However, many of them never do.

Death threats, acid attacks and bombings by Taliban militants and other extremists lead many parents who support female education to keep their daughters at home.

Sometimes, it's the families themselves who stand in the way. School officials in conservative communities say relatives are often more interested in marrying off their daughters or sisters than in helping them get an education.

But some girls, like 18-year-old Rahmaniya, are fighting back.

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Afghanistan
6:24 am
Sun September 2, 2012

U.S. Drawdown Leaves Afghans With Mixed Feelings

U.S. soldiers still patrol in Afghanistan, like this one speaking with a young man in the eastern province of Khost in August. However, Afghan forces are taking on increased responsibility as the U.S. draws down and prepares for its troops to leave by the end of 2014.
Jose Cabezas AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sun September 2, 2012 6:01 pm

Tens of thousands of American troops will be leaving Afghanistan as the NATO-led coalition enters its final two years in the country. Already, more security responsibility is being placed in the hands of the Afghan security forces, says U.S. Gen. John Allen, who heads the NATO-led coalition here.

"The insurgency is today confronted by a rapidly transforming and increasingly capable [Afghan army], which is bearing a larger share of the burden and a larger share of the sacrifice," Allen says.

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Afghanistan
12:32 pm
Thu August 30, 2012

For Afghan Leaders, Facing Death Is A Fact Of Life

The aftermath of a truck bomb in Kandahar, the main city in southern Afghanistan, which wounded the provincial police chief and killed two civilians Monday. Taliban attacks against Afghan officials are up sharply this year.
Mamoon Durani AP

Originally published on Thu August 30, 2012 8:17 pm

Almost daily, Taliban assassins target Afghan government officials and community elders with ambushes or bombings. The United Nations says such killings are up more than 50 percent compared to the same period last year.

On Monday, the target was the powerful police chief in southern Afghanistan's Kandahar province. A suicide bomber struck the convoy of Gen. Abdul Raziq, who survived the attack and is at a U.S. military hospital recuperating from burns and other injuries.

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Afghanistan
4:12 pm
Fri August 17, 2012

Afghan Attacks On Western Partners Rising Sharply

Afghan soldiers (right) patrol with U.S. troops in the Panjwai district of southern Afghanistan in May. The two armies have been working together for years, but Afghan attacks against U.S. and NATO forces have been rising recently.
David Gilkey NPR

Originally published on Fri August 17, 2012 6:03 pm

In the past two weeks, seven Afghans in uniform have opened fire on Western forces. The most recent incidents occurred Friday. First, a newly recruited policeman in western Afghanistan turned his gun on U.S. military trainers, killing two and wounding a third. A short time later in southern Kandahar province, an Afghan soldier shot and wounded two foreign troops.

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Africa
3:25 am
Tue July 10, 2012

Mubarak's Dream Remains Just That In Egypt's Desert

A sign on undeveloped land welcomes visitors to "New Toshka City." Toshka was to be a new settlement along the Upper Nile Valley, complete with enough jobs and infrastructure to support the relocation of 20 million Egyptians from polluted and over-crowded cities.
Holly Pickett Redux

Originally published on Tue July 10, 2012 8:57 am

In the middle of southern Egypt's windy desert, wheat fields stretch as far as the eye can see on a 24,000-acre farm. It's part of a grandiose project called Toshka that was dreamed up 15 years ago by the government of Hosni Mubarak, Egypt's authoritarian leader who ruled the country for three decades before being ousted last year.

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World
5:12 pm
Sat June 16, 2012

Egypt Faces Tense Election For New President

Originally published on Sat June 16, 2012 5:24 pm

Transcript

JACKI LYDEN, HOST:

In Egypt, voters went to the polls today to pick a new president to replace Hosni Mubarak, who was ousted in a revolution last year. Voters are casting ballots just a few days after that nation's highest court issued a ruling that dissolves Egypt's first freely elected parliament, which was dominated by Islamists. The latest election is a runoff between an Islamist engineer and Mubarak's last prime minister, the two top vote-getters in the first round of presidential polls held last month.

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Africa
6:02 am
Mon June 4, 2012

Egyptians Unsatisfied With Mubarak Verdict

Originally published on Mon June 4, 2012 1:26 pm

Transcript

RENEE MONTAGNE, HOST:

In Egypt, protests continue against the verdicts in the trial of former President Hosni Mubarak and various people in his old regime. Mubarak was handed a life sentence in connection to the deaths of protesters during last year's revolution. But critics say the judge's ruling all but ensured the former president's sentence will be overturned on appeal.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has the story from Cairo.

JUDGE AHMED REFAAT: (Foreign language spoken)

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Middle East
5:05 pm
Sat June 2, 2012

Life Sentence For Ex-Egyptian Leader Hosni Mubarak

Protesters hold Egyptian flags during the demonstration in Tahrir Square.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Sat June 2, 2012 6:49 pm

Former Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak was sentenced to life in prison Saturday for his role in killing protesters during the revolution that ousted him from power.

A hushed courtroom listened as the head judge read the verdict: guilty of accessory to murder and attempted murder. Mubarak lay motionless on a hospital gurney inside a courtroom cage, his only noticeable emotion being the slight quivering of his lips.

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Middle East
5:32 pm
Tue May 22, 2012

Egyptians Prepare For Historic Presidential Vote

An Egyptian woman walks under a campaign banner in Cairo on Tuesday. Egypt holds its first competitive presidential election on Wednesday and Thursday, with a dozen candidates in the race.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Tue May 22, 2012 8:46 pm

The first free presidential election in Egypt begins Wednesday.

Twelve candidates are running for the top spot vacated by Hosni Mubarak during last year's revolution. But none is expected to get an outright majority, and if that proves true, then a runoff will take place next month between the two leading vote-getters.

Many Egyptian voters say they are excited about the presidential election, which the country's ruling generals promise will be fair.

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Middle East
8:39 am
Sun May 20, 2012

Egyptian Candidate Gains Support, Despite Reputation

Transcript

RACHEL MARTIN, HOST:

Egyptians are getting ready for an historic vote, their first real presidential election since former President Hosni Mubarak was ousted during the Arab Spring. Twelve candidates are in the running. One them, former Prime Minister Ahmed Shafiq, is already dividing voters ahead of Wednesday's vote. Many consider Shafiq a corrupt holdover from the old regime.

But as NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, he is gaining widespread support from Egyptians fed up with the growing insecurity in their country.

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Middle East
2:52 pm
Fri May 18, 2012

Egypt's New President Could Come From Old Guard

Amr Moussa, a prominent figure during the rule of former President Hosni Mubarak, is the front-runner as Egyptians prepare to vote for president next week. He is shown here during a campaign event on the outskirts of Cairo on Wednesday.
Mohamed Abd El Ghany Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Fri May 18, 2012 6:34 pm

In Egypt's historic presidential race, opinion polls place the oldest candidate with the most political experience far ahead of his 11 rivals.

Many opponents try to portray Amr Moussa as a holdover from the hated regime of Hosni Mubarak. Moussa was Egypt's foreign minister under Mubarak and later the secretary-general of the Arab League.

Yet many voters believe he is the only candidate who can end the country's growing insecurity and economic problems.

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Middle East
5:32 am
Fri May 11, 2012

Egyptians Captivated By Televised Presidential Debate

Originally published on Fri May 11, 2012 7:10 am

In Egypt's first presidential debate, only the top two candidates participated. Voters go to the polls later this month to choose among a field of 13 candidates. The winner is expected to be decided in a runoff next month.

Africa
5:10 pm
Fri May 4, 2012

Political Rift Widens Between Egyptian Islamists

Egyptian presidential candidate Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh is welcomed by supporters upon his arrival at a meeting north of Cairo, on April 26. He was formerly a leader of the Muslim Brotherhood, but was kicked out of the organization.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Fri May 4, 2012 6:31 pm

The two top Islamists running in Egypt's first real presidential race share a common history.

Abdel Moneim Aboul Fotouh, a physician, is a former senior leader in the Muslim Brotherhood whose moderate stance has made him popular not only with Islamists, but with liberal and secular Egyptians.

Mohammed Morsi, an engineer, heads the Brotherhood's political party, which holds nearly half the seats in parliament.

Yet despite their common political background, the two men are bitter rivals.

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Middle East
5:18 am
Mon April 30, 2012

Egypt Recalls Its Ambassador From Saudi Arabia

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 7:03 am

Transcript

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

Egypt has made a request to Saudi Arabia. In effect: Please, send your ambassador back here to Cairo. The Saudis recalled their ambassador over the weekend, exposing tension in one of the most important relationships in the Arab world. The Saudis have the most money. Egypt has the most people.

NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson reports from Cairo, on what they do now.

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Middle East
10:02 am
Sun April 29, 2012

Egyptian Comedian's Case Raises Free Speech Concerns

Originally published on Mon April 30, 2012 12:31 pm

Transcript

DAVID GREENE, HOST:

One of the Arab world's most popular comedic actors is facing jail time in Egypt after a judge ruled he insulted Islam in some of his past film roles. The case worries those already concerned about the growing influence of Islamists in Egypt. NPR's Soraya Sarhaddi Nelson has that story from Cairo.

(SOUNDBITE OF MUSIC)

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Africa
4:06 pm
Thu April 26, 2012

At Last, Egypt Settles On Presidential Candidates

Amr Moussa, the front-runner in the Egyptian presidential race, speaks during a press conference in Cairo on Apr. 22. The country's election commission said Thursday that Moussa and 12 other candidates are eligible to compete in next month's election.
Khaled Desouki AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu April 26, 2012 6:27 pm

After months of anticipation, and just a few weeks before the voting, Egypt now has a list of 13 officially approved presidential candidates.

Amr Moussa, the former secretary-general of the Arab League, is one of the 13, and he is ahead in most opinion surveys in advance of the May 23-24 election.

And in a reversal, Egyptian election officials agreed Thursday to let one of Hosni Mubarak's former prime ministers run for president.

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Middle East
5:13 pm
Mon April 23, 2012

Egyptians Warily Await Final Slate Of Candidates

During a demonstration at Cairo's Tahrir Square last week, veiled Egyptian women hold posters supporting Muslim cleric Hazem Abu Ismail, an ultra-conservative preacher who was disqualified from running for the presidential elections on technical grounds.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Mon April 23, 2012 7:39 pm

Egypt's election commission is expected to announce the final list of candidates this week for next month's presidential elections. But which candidate will win is far from clear.

A recent Egyptian poll shows nearly 40 percent of voters have no idea who to support. Another 30 percent who had decided will be forced to select someone else because their preferred candidates were among the 10 barred by election officials recently.

As a result, Egyptian voters who were once excited about the prospect of their first free presidential election are growing frustrated.

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Middle East
4:42 am
Wed April 18, 2012

Egypt's Banned Candidates Vow Not To Go Quietly

Egypt's Muslim Brotherhood presidential candidate Khairat el-Shater talks to reporters in Cairo on Tuesday. The elections commission has disqualified 10 presidential hopefuls, including el-Shater.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Wed April 18, 2012 8:48 am

Egyptian election officials upheld their ban of nearly half of the presidential candidates running in next month's contest. Among them are two leading Islamist candidates and the intelligence chief for former President Hosni Mubarak. The decision radically alters the race for a post that will shape Egypt's political landscape.

Minutes after official news outlets announced the election commission ruling, candidate Hazem Abu Ismail took to the airwaves to denounce it as a conspiracy.

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Africa
3:12 pm
Mon April 2, 2012

Once-Thriving Egyptian Port Suffers After Soccer Riot

Egyptian soccer fans clash with riot police following a match between the hometown Al-Masry team and Cairo's Al-Ahly at the soccer stadium in Port Said, Egypt, on Feb. 1.
AP

Originally published on Mon April 2, 2012 5:12 pm

The Egyptian city of Port Said is the northern gateway to one of the world's key shipping lanes, the Suez Canal connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Red Sea. With its ornate buildings and clean streets, the sprawling city has one of the highest standards of living in Egypt.

But this year, Port Said has become known for something more sinister: It was the site of Egypt's deadliest soccer riot.

Many of the city's officials and residents say the tragedy has destroyed Port Said's reputation and left them in financial trouble.

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Africa
3:27 am
Mon April 2, 2012

Unease Grows Over Islamist Political Agenda In Egypt

Egyptians protest outside the administrative court in the capital, Cairo, on Tuesday. The protesters are calling for the panel drafting the constitution to be made up entirely of non-parliamentarians. Controversy swirls around the 100-member panel β€” handpicked by Islamist lawmakers β€” which includes only a handful of women and Christians.
Gianluigi Guercia AFP/Getty Images

The Muslim Brotherhood and other Islamist groups in Egypt are flexing their growing political muscle. They control the legislative agenda in parliament, and in recent weeks introduced controversial proposals to curb social freedoms and legal rights.

Islamist lawmakers also handpicked a 100-member panel that began meeting this week to write a new constitution, which is widely expected to enshrine Islamic law.

Even so, Islamist leaders say they want Egypt to remain a secular state. But many secular Egyptians are not convinced.

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Africa
11:05 am
Thu March 22, 2012

To Be Heard, Egypt's Bedouin Take Tourists Hostage

A Bedouin guide makes his way down from Mount Sinai to the Greek Orthodox monastery of St. Catherine in Egypt's Sinai Peninsula. The Bedouins depend on tourism, but have been kidnapping visitors in recent months in an attempt to pressure Egypt's government.
Mike Nelson EPA/Landov

Originally published on Wed March 28, 2012 4:05 pm

Bedouin tribesmen on Egypt's Sinai Peninsula rely on tourists for their livelihood β€” taking them on safaris, selling them trinkets, renting them huts at no-frills resorts on the Red Sea.

But these days, some Bedouins are using tourists for something completely different: as hostages in their political battle with the Egyptian government. In one recent incident, the tribesmen kidnapped two Brazilian tourists to secure the release of imprisoned relatives. The kidnappers released the women unharmed a few hours later.

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Sports
12:01 am
Wed March 14, 2012

An American Soccer Coach In Egypt's National Court

The Egyptian national soccer team's American coach, Bob Bradley, attends his team's friendly match against Kenya in the Qatari capital, Doha, in February. The Egyptian team won 5-0.
Karim Jaafar AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Wed March 14, 2012 12:24 pm

Anti-Americanism is on the rise in Egypt these days. A highly publicized trial is under way in Cairo against U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups, and Egyptians are making it clear they reject any American involvement in their country's affairs.

There's one exception, however: an American living in Cairo whom Egyptians are counting on to shake things up. His name is Bob Bradley, and he's the New Jersey-born coach of Egypt's struggling national soccer team.

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Middle East
3:25 pm
Tue February 28, 2012

Egyptians Prepare For Wide-Open Presidential Poll

Egyptian presidential candidate and former Arab League Secretary General Amr Moussa delivers a speech to Bedouins in Ras Sidr during a campaign trip to the South Sinai last week. Egyptians are anticipating the first presidential elections after last year's ouster of Hosni Mubarak.
Asmaa Waguih Reuters/Landov

Originally published on Thu March 1, 2012 3:00 pm

Egypt's presidential race officially kicks off Saturday, and there are already more than a dozen contenders for what is expected to be the most competitive presidential election ever.

Nevertheless, many Egyptians fear those currently in power will try to manipulate the process to make sure that a candidate of their choosing wins.

At 41, Khaled Ali is the youngest Egyptian vying to be his country's next president.

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Middle East
6:11 am
Sat February 25, 2012

In Egypt, Christian-Muslim Tension Is On The Rise

A Coptic Christian man holds a cross made of flowers during a clash between Christians and Muslims in Cairo in November. Relations are becoming more strained between the two communities, and there has been periodic violence.
Khalil Hamra AP

Originally published on Thu March 29, 2012 5:18 pm

Blackened rubble is all that is left of Abskharon Suleiman's appliance store in the northern Egyptian village of Sharbat.

Suleiman is a Coptic Christian, and his upstairs apartment, as well as his children's homes and shops, were gutted and looted in an attack last month by young Muslim men.

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Middle East
4:59 pm
Thu February 16, 2012

The Woman Behind Egypt's Crackdown On Aid Groups

Egyptian Planning and International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga (shown here in Washington, D.C., last April) has repeatedly warned Egyptians about the alleged danger foreigners pose to their country. She is the driving force behind recent efforts to prosecute 43 people, including American and other foreign democracy activists, for operating illegally in Egypt.
Nicholas Kamm AFP/Getty Images

Originally published on Thu February 16, 2012 6:39 pm

In Egypt, a female Cabinet minister has emerged as the driving force behind a crackdown on U.S.-funded pro-democracy groups.

The attacks of Faiza Aboul Naga β€” a holdover from the regime of ousted Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak β€” have made her a hero to many Egyptians who believe she is defending their country's honor. But the threat she poses to billions of dollars in U.S. aid and international loans could make her power short-lived.

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Middle East
4:56 pm
Tue February 14, 2012

Egyptians Harbor Suspicions About U.S. Aid Groups

An Egyptian soldier on an armored vehicle guards an exchange office in Cairo on Monday. Tensions between the U.S. and Egypt are rising over Cairo's investigation of aid workers, many of them American. An Egyptian Cabinet minister, Faiza Aboul Naga, recently accused the U.S. of directly funding pro-democracy groups in order to create chaos in Egypt.
Amr Nabil AP

Originally published on Tue February 14, 2012 6:16 pm

The Egyptian government has further escalated tensions with Washington by accusing U.S. officials of directly funding nonprofit groups to create chaos in the Arab country.

The latest comments were made by an Egyptian Cabinet member to prosecutors conducting a criminal probe into the activities of 43 aid workers, many of them American.

Such claims anger U.S. officials, who have threatened to hold back more than $1 billion in military aid if the crackdown on private, pro-democracy organizations doesn't end.

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