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    Kerry: US to Release Millions in Aid to Egypt

    U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry met Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi Sunday, pledging financial assistance to Egypt following assurances of economic and political reform in one of America's key regional allies.

    On his first visit to an Arab capital as secretary of state, Kerry said the U.S. will provide $190 million immediately as part of a larger $450 million assistance package designed to help stabilize the bitterly divided country and spur badly needed economic reform.

    He also said Washington will provide an additional $60 million for a new enterprise fund to support Egyptian entrepreneurs and young people.

    Kerry said the aid was released because Mr. Morsi promised to finalize an agreement with the International Monetary Fund on a $4.8 billion loan package that has languished for months. Egypt's finance minister said Sunday he expects a deal will be reached with the IMF before parliamentary elections begin in April.

    U.S. officials said Kerry also planned to discuss 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.

    The talks came a day after Kerry met 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.

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