Cairo - Egyptian authorities have denied permission to eight US-based nonprofit groups to operate locally, including a centre headed by former American president Jimmy Carter that monitors elections, a ministry official said on Monday.
The Social Affairs Ministry official said the licenses were denied because the groups' activities "breach the country's sovereignty". He did not elaborate. He spoke on Monday on condition of anonymity because he was not authorised to brief the media.
The move comes only a month ahead of presidential elections slated for 23 May, the first since the ouster of longtime authoritarian leader Hosni Mubarak 14 months ago.
Sanne van den Bergh, who heads The Carter Centre in Egypt, said that the group has not yet received formal notification of the decision. Observers from the centre were allowed by the country's military rulers to "witness" multi-stage parliamentary elections that ran November to February. The Carter Centre said the vote was generally fair.
A recent criminal investigation into alleged violations by US-based nonprofit groups in Egypt led to the worst diplomatic row between Cairo and Washington in three decades. American employees were referred to trial on charges that they had used illegally obtained funds to promote activities that undermined stability.
Most of the Americans were out of the country when investigative judges referred them to trial and those who stayed behind were later allowed to leave.
The Carter Centre is the most prominent of the eight groups. Some of the others are linked to US-based churches.