The Bush administration will oppose any additional foreign aid for Egypt to protest the Egyptian government's prosecution of human rights campaigner Saad Eddin Ibrahim and its poor treatment of pro-democracy organizations, administration sources said yesterday.

The Ibrahim case makes it "impossible" for the administration to contemplate extra money for Egypt, according to a White House official who said President Bush will soon advise Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak in writing of his decision. Existing aid programs will not be affected.

Bush's decision to criticize Mubarak and connect Egypt's human rights performance to economic aid is a notable shift in policy toward a longtime ally considered essential to U.S. efforts to calm the Israeli-Palestinian conflict and remove Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein.

Until now, U.S. officials have uttered their strongest protests to the Egyptians in private as Mubarak tightened the government's grip on organizations that seek to expand individual freedoms and the public's political clout. The administration's restrained public response to Ibrahim's July 29 conviction -- a State Department deputy spokesman announced that the administration was "deeply disappointed" -- raised doubts about the commitment behind Bush's pledge to spread democracy in the Arab world.

Advocacy groups, which have pressed the administration to speak out more boldly against Ibrahim's imprisonment, praised the new move yesterday. Tom Malinowski, of Human Rights Watch's Washington office, said the decision could be "the most significant step the United States has ever taken to defend human rights in the Arab world."

At this point, the president's letter will have primarily symbolic value for Egypt, which will continue to receive its annual allocation of nearly $2 billion in U.S. assistance. The Mubarak government had been lobbying for an extra $130 million after a congressional vote to grant Israel $200 million in anti-terrorism funds. Citing a formula dating to the 1978 Camp David peace accords, the Egyptians said they, too, deserved more.

But the money for Israel disappeared this week when the president said he would not sign the $5.1 billion spending package that included the Israel funding. The issue could come up again. Bush suggested that he favors extra help for Israel, and Stuart Roy, a spokesman for House Majority Whip Tom DeLay (R-Tex.), called it "very likely" that the House will include an extra $200 million for Israel when Congress considers spending bills this fall.

A review of U.S. democracy-building projects in Egypt is underway in the administration, where sentiment for a rebuke to Mubarak has been growing. Several U.S. officials cited frustration with Egyptian rules governing the activities and funding of grass-roots human rights organizations.

The Ibrahim case, said one State Department official, was "the last straw."

Egyptian authorities charged that Ibrahim, 63, embezzled funds, tarnished Egypt's image and received foreign funds without permission. The European Union, which gave money to Ibrahim, said it is satisfied the funds were used as intended. Observers from foreign governments and human rights organizations considered the charges politically motivated.

Ibrahim, a university professor who holds Egyptian and American passports, writes and lectures about democratic values, including rights for Egyptian minorities. He has organized teams to monitor elections and taught people how to vote. He was arrested soon after he suggested that Mubarak might be preparing to anoint his son to replace him.

When the court swiftly convicted Ibrahim and sentenced him to seven years in prison, his wife, Barbara, said, "The rule of law died today in Egypt."

U.S. officials summoned the Egyptian ambassador to the State Department within hours of the verdict. In Cairo, American diplomats notified the foreign ministry of U.S. displeasure. In the administration, specialists in human rights and the Middle East looked for something that would get Mubarak's attention without threatening the U.S.-Egyptian partnership.

Human rights organizations spoke out, while prominent opinion-makers criticized the Bush administration for not doing more. Rep. Henry J. Hyde (R-Ill.), chairman of the House International Relations Committee, wrote Mubarak on Aug. 6 to protest the conviction of Ibrahim on what he described as "inherently political offenses." A congressional aide predicted Hyde would support a decision to block extra funds, adding that the money "should be used as a point of leverage."

Yet, in searching for ways to get Mubarak's attention on the Ibrahim case, the administration has also been mindful of Egypt's importance as a partner in the Middle East and U.S. support for the Mubarak government's efforts to control Islamic extremist organizations.

U.S. officials are counting on the Mubarak government to find a way to free Ibrahim, perhaps on medical grounds. Ibrahim suffers from a neurological disorder that restricts the flow of oxygen to this brain.

Egyptian government spokesmen assert that Ibrahim's trial was fair, the judges ruled independently, and Mubarak cannot change the result. One official defended the verdict this week and said, "Once [a case enters] the Egyptian judicial system, you can't interfere."

Beyond the Ibrahim matter, the administration is working with the Mubarak government in hopes of blunting regulations that concern the registration of nongovernmental organizations and their access to foreign funds, such as democracy-building grants.

Human rights groups say the rules, tightened in a law awaiting implementation, make it extremely difficult to support groups not favored by the Mubarak government. By discouraging such projects among grass-roots organizations, Egypt also impedes the sort of democratic progress Bush considers a new priority, human rights advocates contend.

As part of the administration's effort to expand free speech and democracy to Islamic countries, the State Department has embarked on a study of U.S. aid efforts in Egypt, home to the largest and most complex American initiatives in the Arab world.

Such work cannot come soon enough, said Neil Hicks, an Egypt specialist at the Lawyers Committee for Human Rights. He believes the Bush administration should press Egypt harder.

"The past tells us that business as usual doesn't work," Hicks said. "In the last 10 years in particular, the democratic space has been shrinking in Egypt to a dangerous extent."

Egypt's prosecution of Saad Eddin Ibrahim, a human rights activist, is drawing the criticism of President Bush in a letter to Hosni Mubarak.