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UAE leads Egypt aid pledge

(Agencies) / 10 July 2013

Aid in billions started to pour in on Tuesday as Egypt’s military-backed interim leadership got down to business, laying out a fast-track timetable to elect a new president and parliament by early next year.

Interim President Adli Mansour named prominent economist Hazem El Beblawi, as prime minister and appointed pro-democracy leader Mohamed ElBaradei as a vice-president, a presidential spokesman announced, ending days of deadlock over filling the top posts of a new government.

The United States said it is encouraged that the interim government has “laid out a plan for the path forward”, and the UAE offered a grant of $1 billion and a further $2-billion no-interest loan to Egypt in the form of a no-interest deposit with the Central Bank of Egypt. The announcement was made when Mansour received Shaikh Hazza bin Zayed Al Nahyan, UAE National Security Adviser, at Etihadiya Palace.

Saudi Arabia also approved a $5 billion aid package to Egypt.

Shaikh Hazza conveyed congratulations from the UAE President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan; His Highness Shaikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, Vice-President and Prime Minister of the UAE and Ruler of Dubai, and General Shaikh Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan, Crown Prince of Abu Dhabi and Deputy Supreme Commander of the UAE Armed Forces, to the Egyptian interim president on assuming his post during the transition period.

The UAE leaders wished him success in his mission and more progress and prosperity for the Egyptian people in order to pursue its drive towards development, progress and prosperity, enabling the country to play its civilised leading role in Arab and international arenas.

Shaikh Hazza was accompanied by a high-level ministerial delegation including Foreign Minister Shaikh Abdullah bin Zayed Al Nahyan. In a statement, Shaikh Hazza affirmed that the ties between the leadership and people of the UAE with Egypt are brotherly, historic, solid and charatcterised with affection and cooperation.

He added that the UAE stands beside Egypt and its people at this critical juncture of its history and is confident of the choices the Egyptian people would make towards the future, and its ability to ride over the current challenges for the sake of preserving the interest, stability and security of Egypt. In this context, he emphasised that Egypt’s security and stability are the bedrock of Arab security.

Saudi Arabia also approved a $5 billion aid package to Egypt comprising a $2 billion central bank deposit, $2 billion in energy products and $1 billion in cash, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim Alassaf told Reuters.

Separately, prominent UAE businessman Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor donated 10 million Egyptian pounds to the newly-created ‘Support Egypt’ fund. The fund was recently set up by Egyptian businessmen and has the backing of the Central Bank of Egypt.

Egypt’s swift issuing of the fast-track plan showed a determination to entrench a new political system in the face of Islamists’ vows to continue their street campaign aiming to reverse the military’s ousting of president Mohammed Mursi.

The Brotherhood, which has refused to accept the overthrow of its champion Mohammed Mursi slammed the transition blueprint as an attempt to salvage last week’s coup which would do nothing to end an increasingly bloody conflict.

But Egypt’s armed forces also warned against any attempt to disrupt the country’s “difficult and complex” transition.

El Beblawi, who is in his 70s, served as finance minister in one of the first cabinets formed after the 2011 uprising forced Hosni Mubarak from power and the military stepped in to rule. He resigned in protest in October 2011 after 26 protesters, mostly Christians, were killed by troops and security forces in a crackdown on their march.

He is one of the founders of the Egyptian Social Democratic party, one of several secular parties in the liberal grouping National Salvation Front. The Front had backed youth activists who drove the massive protests by millions of Egyptians last week demanding Mursi’s removal, leading to the military’s ousting of the country’s first democratically elected president.

The announcement breaks a political deadlock among the factions that backed Mursi’s removal over who to put in the post. Liberal, secular and youth factions have been trying to ensure one of their own in the spot, only to be blocked by the sole Islamist grouping among their ranks — the ultraconservative Salafi Al Nour Party.

Last week, ElBaradei was on the verge of being named prime minister, but at the last minute he was withdrawn in the face of Al Nour objections. An ally of ElBaradei was then touted as a compromise, but the Salafis again expressed disapproval. ElBaradei is considered one of the strongest pro-reform figures, but many Islamists vehemently oppose him, considering him too secular. 

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