Kerry ready for Egypt talks

Kerry ready for Egypt talks

US Secretary of State John Kerry is calling on bickering Egyptian leaders and opposition politicians to forge a consensus that will allow the country to emerge from economic crisis.

Mr Kerry, on his first overseas trip as a member of President Barack Obama’s Cabinet, is scheduled to meet with a number of opposition figures along with Egypt’s foreign minister on Saturday.

He will see president Mohammed Morsi on Sunday.

US officials said Mr Kerry was particularly concerned that Egypt takes the reforms necessary to qualify for a 4.8 billion US dollars (£3.1 billion) International Monetary Fund (IMF) loan package.

One official said it was extremely important for the new Egypt for there to be a firm economic foundation and that requires reaching agreement with the IMF.

To get that, Egypt must make reforms, like increasing tax collections and curbing energy subsidies.

Agreement with the IMF would also unlock significant US assistance, including portions of the one billion US dollars (£664 million) that Mr Obama pledged last April.

But getting the IMF deal will also be contingent on an end to the political chaos that has wracked the country since Mr Morsi’s election.

Mr Kerry will press for all political players to come to a basic agreement on the country’s direction ahead of parliamentary elections that begin in April, the official said.

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

The main opposition group, the National Salvation Front, has said it would boycott the upcoming elections.

The US official said Mr Kerry would not tell the front what to do, but would stress that they should participate if they want their ideas and values heard and represented.

At the same time, the official said Mr Kerry would impress on Mr Morsi the need for inclusiveness and tolerance.

Egypt has been locked in political crisis for months amid successive waves of protests against Mr Morsi that have repeatedly turned into deadly clashes and rioting.

The opposition accuses the president and the Brotherhood, from which he hails, of dominating power in Egypt, effectively stepping in to the same role as ousted autocrat Hosni Mubarak and failing to carry out reforms while seeking to instil a more religiously conservative system.

Mr Morsi’s administration and the Brotherhood, in turn, say their opponents are trying to use street unrest to overturn their rule.

Mr Kerry’s visit to Egypt is the sixth leg of a nine-nation trip through Europe and the Middle East. He travels next to Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates and Qatar.

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