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Egypt tells the International Republican Institute (IRI) to halt activities

Agence France Presse

Egypt has asked an American NGO which promotes democracy to suspend its activities in the country due to interference in Cairo's internal affairs, the foreign ministry said Monday.

A ministry spokesman said that Egypt has called on the International Republican Institute (IRI) to halt operations in Egypt until it has received the necessary permits.

The move came after a newspaper interview with Gina London, the Cairo head of the IRI, critical of the slow pace of reform in Egypt.

"Talking of the role of the institute in speeding up what she called 'change' is a blatant interference in Egypt's internal affairs," the ministry spokesman told reporters.

The Egyptian daily Nahdet Masr on Saturday published an interview with London in which she spoke about the institute's work on democracy and the push for reform in Egypt.

Reformists in Egypt were "unable (to achieve reforms) for the past 25 years", she was quoted as saying.

A lawyer for the institute played down the controversy. "It is all just a misunderstanding ... The institute has not yet started its activities, it is still in the set-up phase," said Omar Hegazi.

"We have almost finished the registration procedures and the file will be ready soon," he said.

The IRI, with offices in more than 60 countries, was founded in April 1983 and is described on its website as "a private, non-profit organization dedicated to advancing democracy worldwide".

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