WASHINGTON — U.S. officials said Tuesday that Army Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, would travel to Egypt to press for the criminal charges against at least 16 American nonprofit workers to be dropped.
Officials said Dempsey would reinforce the message that unless Egypt ends its plan to try the American nonprofit workers on charges that their agencies illegally received foreign funds, the country risked losing $1.3 billion annually in U.S. military aid.
Last week in a phone call, Defense Secretary Leon Panetta told the head of the Supreme Council of the Armed Forces, Field Marshal Mohamed Hussein Tantawi, that Congress might cut off aid. Dempsey is expected to meet with Tantawi.
Publicly, the Pentagon said Dempsey would be "consulting with friends. He is not delivering ultimatums," said his spokesman, Marine Col. David Lapan.
On Sunday, Egyptian prosecutors filed charges against at least 40 international civil society workers.
Egyptian reports initially said that 19 Americans were charged but the State Department said Tuesday that it had accounted for 16. Adding to the confusion, spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said that fewer than half of the Americans currently reside in Egypt and that others hadn't lived there for several years.