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Kerry urges Egypt to finalise IMF loan agreement - Daily News Egypt

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Kerry urges Egypt to finalise IMF loan agreement

US Secretary of State John Kerry met a number of opposition figures and Egypt's foreign minister on Saturday and called for all political figures to unite to emerge from the current economic crisis

Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State John Kerry (C) meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo (AFP Photo)
Egyptian Foreign Minister Mohammed Kamel Amr and US Secretary of State John Kerry meets with Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi at the presidential palace in Cairo
(AFP Photo)

By: Nada Badawi

After talks with Egypt’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Mohamed Kamel Amr, US Secretary of State John Kerry strongly emphasised Egypt’s need for the International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan at this current time.

“We do believe that at this moment of economic challenge that it is important for the Egyptian people to come together around the economic choices and to find some common ground in making those choices,” he said.

Kerry stressed that economic reforms are necessary to make Egypt eligible for the $4.8bn loan, something which President Mohamed Morsi introduced last December.

He further stated that an IMF agreement would open the door for Egypt to receive significant assistance from the US, namely the $1bn that Obama pledged last April.

“We expect from friends, particularly from the United States, as a strategic partner to Egypt, to stand by Egypt during this period in the economic arena,” said Kamel.

An invitation was sent to the IMF team on Thursday to resume talks regarding the $4.8 billion loan.

Negotiations over the loan were postponed a number of times due to political unrest in Cairo.

Kerry pressed for all political leaders to unite and to resolve their differences, ahead of the upcoming parliamentary elections in April, in order to secure the IMF loan.

“There must be a willingness on all sides to make meaningful compromises on the issues that matter most to the Egyptian people,” he said.

“It is paramount, essential, urgent that the Egyptian economy get stronger, that it gets back on its feet,” he added.

Kerry’s visit sparked tensions in the country, as some Egyptians and opposition figures claimed that “Washington is siding with Egypt’s ruling Muslim Brotherhood”.

Protests took place in front of the Foreign Ministry building denouncing Kerry’s visit and setting pictures of him on fire.

George Ishaq said in a statement to Al Jazeera that American foreign policy is “unworthy of trust”.

Ishaq said that “what Washington really cares about is Israel’s security. If anyone guarantees that like President Morsi, they’ll be willing to cooperate with them and that’s very dangerous”.

Kerry, however, denied the allegations, stating that the US did not favour a specific candidate during Egypt’s presidential elections last year.

“We are not here to interfere,” he said. “We are here to listen. We are not here to urge anybody to take one particular action or another, though we have a point of view and certainly I will express that.”

Morsi, who also acts as a legislative authority, introduced drastic economic reforms last December to qualify Egypt for the IMF loan.

Decisions included an increase in taxes on a range of consumer goods and services like cement, steel, soft drinks, cigarettes among many other goods and services.

However, Morsi’s decisions led to a “public outcry”.

Morsi announced more reforms in a televised interview with TV host Amr El-Leithy, where he raised the minimum monthly income for income tax exemption from EGP 9,000 to EGP 12,000.

He explained that this should help alleviate tax burden on some 2.5 million families.

Earlier in February, the government announced a 50% increase in the price of subsidised fuel, which sparked protests by workers and led to factories operating ineffectively.

The IMF loan negotiations come amid political unrest and economic instability, with the country’s foreign currency reserves falling to $13.6bn at the end of January.

Foreign currency reserves stood at $36bn before the 25 January Revolution.

Minister of Investment Ossama Saleh has expressed hope that a deal could be done with the IMF by the end of April.

Kerry is scheduled to meet President Mohamed Morsi on Sunday to discuss US economic assistance to Egypt and ways to boost Egypt’s exports to the US.

Kerry will travel to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar after he concludes his trip in Egypt.

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