The US military's top general plans to fly to Egypt this week as the United States presses Cairo to lift criminal charges against American pro-democracy activists, officials said on Wednesday.
General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, "is scheduled to travel to Egypt later this week," his spokesman Colonel Dave Lapan told AFP.
The "long-planned" visit includes meetings with his counterpart Lieutenant General Sami Enan and the country's military ruler, Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi, he said.
"With the Egyptians, Gen. Dempsey will discuss common interests, choices and consequences," Lapan said in an email.
With the US military's deep, longstanding ties to Egypt's top brass, officials are hoping Dempsey will manage to persuade Cairo to back off a planned trial of foreigners who work with non-government organisations.
Egyptian justices have announced plans to put dozens of pro-democracy activists, including 19 Americans, on trial over alleged illegal funding to foreign aid groups.
The move has shaken the Egypt-US alliance that has anchored America's Middle East policy for a generation and helped keep the peace between Israel and its Arab neighbours.
Some senior US lawmakers have warned that Washington's aid to Egypt could be jeopardized if the prosecution goes ahead.
The US government currently provides about $1.3 billion a year in aid to Egypt, one of the biggest aid packages offered to any nation.
Egyptian judges on Wednesday accused domestic and foreign groups, including American ones, of illegally meddling in the country's politics.