Defense Secretary Chuck Hagel told his Egyptian counterpart Saturday that the United States is dissatisfied with a new law limiting protests in the Middle East nation and the recent arrests of Egyptian girls who demonstrated against the military-led government.
In a call to Gen. Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi that he initiated, Hagel also warned the Egyptian defense minister that Cairo's "response to free expression will demonstrate the interim government's commitment to a non-violent, inclusive and sustainable democratic transition," according to Carl Woog, the Pentagon's assistant press secretary.
The conversation took place just over seven weeks after President Barack Obama reduced the United States' $1.3 billion annual foreign aid to Egypt by freezing $260 million in cash payments and suspending delivery of tanks and fighter jets.
If Hagel and el-Sissi discussed the aid cut, Woog didn't mention it in his readout of the two men's talk.
Obama reduced U.S. aid three months after a military-led coup overthrew Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, a former Muslim Brotherhood leader, and following a violent crackdown on his supporters.
An Egyptian court Thursday sentenced 21 female supporters of Morsi to 11 years in prison, among them seven under the age of 18.
The defense chiefs discussed the status of a new constitution being drafted in Cairo and a constitutional referendum tentatively scheduled for next month.
"They also discussed counter-terrorism, border and maritime security, and regional security issues including Syria and Iran," Woog said.
Hagel expressed condolences for the recent killings of at least 11 Egyptian soldiers by a suicide bomber near the city of el-Arish in the restive Sinai Peninsula.