Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 2 August 2014

Egypt needs viability, says Kerry

US Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on bickering Egyptian leaders and opposition politicians to forge a consensus

Egypt's bickering government and opposition need to create "a sense of political and economic viability", giving businesses confidence and setting the stage for a vital international aid deal, US Secretary of State John Kerry has said.

He stressed to business leaders the importance of Egyptians coming together around human rights, freedom and speech and religious tolerance. Equally essential, he said, is uniting "to meet the economic challenge of this particular moment".

Mr Kerry arrived in the capital, Cairo, the latest stop on his first overseas trip as a member of President Barack Obama's second-term Cabinet, intending to press all sides to come to a basic agreement on Egypt's direction ahead of parliamentary elections that begin next month.

Of great concern, too, is the ability of Egypt to undertake the reforms necessary to qualify for a 4.8 billion US dollars (£3.2 billion) International Monetary Fund loan package. Steps could include increasing tax collections and curbing energy subsidies.

Agreement with the IMF, contingent on ending the political chaos that has ensued since President Mohammed Morsi's election, would unlock significant US assistance, including portions of Mr Obama's 1 billion US dollars (£662 million) pledge last April.

"It is paramount, essential, urgent," Mr Kerry told business leaders, "that the Egyptian economy gets stronger, gets back on its feet and it's very clear that there is a circle of connections in how that can happen. To attract capital, to bring money back here, to give business the confidence to move forward, there has to be sense of security, there has to be a sense of political and economic viability."

Mr Kerry, who is due to meet Mr Morsi on Sunday, said he would tell the President that US assistance would depend on Egyptian reforms and the IMF agreement. "It is clear to us that the IMF arrangement needs to be reached and we need to give the market place some confidence," he said.

Mr Kerry met opposition figures before a round-table discussion with members of the business community. He described the first session as "very, very spirited". According to the US State Department, he also spoke by telephone with Mohammed ElBaradei, a Nobel laureate who heads the National Salvation Front, an opposition coalition calling for an election boycott.

Liberal and secular Egyptians have complained that Washington is siding with Mr Morsi's ruling Muslim Brotherhood.

Mr Kerry met Amr Moussa, a former minister under ex-president Hosni Mubarak who is now aligned with the Salvation Front. Mr Moussa, an ex-Arab League head, ran for president last summer. Mr Kerry's talks with the league's current leader, Nabil Elaraby, covered the uprising in Syria, where 70,000 people have died in fighting over nearly two years.

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