Washington:  US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has conveyed his "deep concern" to Egypt's military ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi over police raids on pro-democracy groups, the Pentagon said.
   
In a phone call to Tantawi that underscored Washington's dismay over the issue, Panetta also thanked the military chief for his "prompt decision to halt the raids," press secretary
George Little said in a statement on Friday.
   
US officials earlier on Friday said Washington received assurances from Egypt that it will stop raids on American and other non-governmental organisations and return confiscated property.
   
"The Secretary expressed his deep concern about the raids that took place on December 29 on the offices of American and other NGOs," Little said.
   
"He also conveyed his appreciation for Field Marshal Tantawi's prompt decision to halt the raids, and to take steps that will make it easier for NGOs to operate in Egypt," the statement said.
   
Panetta stressed that it was "critical for Egypt to continue on the path to democratic transition" after two rounds of parliamentary elections, it said.
   
The Pentagon chief also reaffirmed the importance of US security ties with Egypt, which receives more than one billion dollars in annual aid from the United States.

(Agencies)