By Elise Labott
The United States is having "intense discussions" with the Egyptian government to resolve the case of 16 American overseas aid workers facing charges as part of an Egyptian crackdown on nongovernmental organizations, a senior administration official said Saturday.
"As we have been for some weeks, we are involved with intense discussions with the government of Egypt to try to resolve this situation with the NGOs in the coming days," the official told reporters.
The Americans are among 43 people accused in a case involving foreign funding. They are scheduled to appear in a criminal court Sunday, a spokesman for the Egyptian general prosecutor's office said.
U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton has met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Amr in the past three days in London and Tunis and other senior administration officials have also been intensely involved, the official said.
The official would not speak about details of the discussions so as not to jeopardize the delicate diplomacy under way to resolve the issue.
In December, Egyptian authorities carried out 17 raids on the offices of 10 organizations, including the U.S.-based Freedom House, National Democratic Institute and the International Republican Institute. They seized property and prevented some staff from leaving the country.
Among the Americans is Sam LaHood, director of Egypt operations for the International Republican Institute and the son of U.S. Transportation Secretary Ray LaHood.
Earlier this month, the United States was presented with a 175-page document from an Egyptian court laying out charges against U.S. and other international democracy-building groups. The charges include operating in Egypt without being officially registered and receiving foreign funding.
The State Department sent lawyers to Egypt to pore over the document.
Of the Americans charged, fewer than half are still in Egypt. Those who are still in the country have been invited to move into the U.S. Embassy compound. The Egyptian government has not asked for those Americans at the embassy to be turned over or to turn themselves in.
The United States has maintained that despite the charges, it does not consider the case truly a judicial one, but a matter between the two governments about the role of NGOs in Egypt.
The showdown has strained ties between the countries as the Obama administration has sought to embrace the new government led by the Muslim Brotherhood.
Members of Congress say Egypt's action could mean the end of $1.3 billion in U.S. aid.
Egypt's democracy is fragile in the wake of the revolution that ousted former President Hosni Mubarak, and can ill afford a cut in funding.