Egypt could survive without US military aid: Interim PM

WASHINGTON, District of Columbia (AFP) - Egypt's interim Prime Minister Hazem el-Beblawi said in an interview on Tuesday it would be a mistake if the United States (US) cut off military aid but insisted Cairo could survive without it.

A possible move by Washington to stop US weapons deliveries and other assistance to Egypt "will be a bad sign and will badly affect the military for some time," Mr Beblawi told ABC News.

A violent crackdown by Egypt's security forces against supporters of ousted president Mohamed Mousi has prompted Washington to cancel an exercise and delay the transfer of four F-16s, amid speculation more aid could be withheld from Cairo.

But Mr Beblawi said that, in the past, Egypt had turned to Russia for weapons and would find a way forward, even without American help if necessary.

"Let's not forget that Egypt went with the Russian military for support and we survived. So, there is no end to life," he said. "You can live with different circumstances." Saudi Arabia has said it and other Arab states would step in to provide assistance if Washington cut the flow of military aid.

But Mr Beblawi expressed regret over tensions in US-Egypt relations since the July 3 coup that toppled Mursi, Egypt's first elected president.

"We are sorry that at this moment there is a kind of misunderstanding," Mr Beblawi said. "There is a lot of misunderstanding and I'm sure that the time will work to the benefit of both sides."

The interim prime minister also said he does "not fear civil war" in Egypt and that though he expected more "problems," the country was heading in the "right direction."

Egyptian authorities detained the leader of the Islamist movement of the deposed president on Tuesday, as the military-installed government showed no sign of backing off of its bloody crackdown.

Nearly 900 people have died in clashes between security forces and Mursi's Islamist supporters.

The US has provided US$1.3 billion (S$1.66 billion) in military assistance, including F-16 fighters and Abrams tanks, to Egypt every year since 1987.