Cairo: A top Egyptian official is defending sweeps through the offices of 10 human rights and democracy groups, rejecting denunciations from the US, UN and Germany.

International Cooperation Minister Faiza Aboul Naga defends the operation as a legitimate investigation into organisations suspected of operating without permits.

She rejected calling the security sweep a raid. She said on Monday the decision to send special commandos in full gear to seal offices while searching through documents and interrogating employees came from judges, not Egypt's ruling military council or government.

The US says Egyptian authorities agreed to halt raids against non-governmental pro-democracy groups.

Three of the organisations targeted on Thursday were US-based organizations funded in part by the State Department.