U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Sunday with Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi, wrapping up his visit to a key regional ally by appealing for consensus among the country's divided factions to spur badly needed economic reform.
Kerry, on his first visit to an Arab capital as secretary of state, said he would discuss steps the United States could take to help revitalize Egypt's economy if Cairo reaches agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan package.
U.S. officials said he also planned to raise Egypt's key regional role, stressing the importance of its peace agreement with Israel and ability to mediate conflicts between Israel and Hamas in the Gaza Strip.
Kerry's talks with Mr. Morsi come a day after meeting Egypt's foreign minister and opposition politicians, some of whom refused to see the top U.S. diplomat, saying Washington has been too supportive of Egypt's president and his Islamist allies.
Mohamed ElBaradei, one of the leaders of the country's main opposition coalition, the National Salvation Front, refused to meet with Kerry, choosing instead to speak with him by phone. About half of the 11 invited guests turned up to the U.S. embassy for the meeting.
Mr. Morsi's liberal and secular opponents, including the NSF, are planning to boycott parliamentary elections scheduled for April, citing doubts about transparency and concerns the ruling Islamists are attempting to dominate power.
Kerry said he had come to support the Egyptian people and not to take sides in the country's ongoing political conflict.
Meanwhile, an Egyptian court said Sunday the retrial of ousted leader Hosni Mubarak, his sons and top aides would begin next month.
Mubarak was jailed for life for ordering the killing of demonstrators, but granted a retrial by a Cairo court in January. He is the first Arab ruler to be tried by his people after the uprisings that swept the Middle East and North Africa.