Merkley: End violence or aid stops

WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Jeff Merkley called for an immediate end to violence against protesters in Egypt on Thursday, joining a group of Democrats who said the U.S. should cut off foreign aid to the nation unless a peaceful solution is quickly found.

Merkley, D-Ore., said violence by supporters of Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is clearly unacceptable, especially for a country that is a major recipient of U.S. military aid.

“What happened (Wednesday) with thugs attacking peaceful demonstrators on behalf of the government must not happen again,” Merkley said. “In no way can America turn a blind eye to this ruthless assault on ordinary citizens.

“If we see a repeat of this violence, America must send a very strong message: There will be no further aid to the Mubarak government,” he continued.

If violence against protesters continues, Merkley would push for an end to all financial assistance to Egypt except humanitarian aid, spokesman Mike Westling said.

According to the U.S. State Department, the U.S. sends about $1.3 billion a year in military aid to Egypt.