A top International Monetary Fund official will visit Egypt on Monday for talks likely to focus on the $4.8 billion loan agreement frozen last month because of political unrest in the country, AFP reports.
The trip to Cairo by Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia department, comes at the invitation of Egyptian authorities, the Washington-based lender said in a statement Saturday.
Discussions will focus on "the most recent economic developments, their policy plans for addressing Egypt's economic and financial challenges, and possible IMF support for Egypt in facing these challenges," the Fund said, according to AFP.
Less than a week ago, Egyptian Prime Minister Hisham Qandil said that Cairo wanted to resume talks with the IMF on the loan request.
That request, made last August, was suspended for a month on December 11, with Cairo saying the postponement was "because of the political situation in the country."
The IMF and Egyptian authorities had provisionally agreed on the 22-month loan, aimed at helping the government bridge financial shortfalls through fiscal 2013-2014, on November 20.
Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi's government is going through its worst crisis since his election in June to replace long-time president Hosni Mubarak, mainly over a referendum on a new Islamist-drafted constitution.
The controversial constitution was passed by 64 percent of voters in a referendum held last month. Egypt's opposition has rejected the constitution and has vowed to keep up a struggle that has spawned weeks of protests and instability.
Egypt's public prosecutor has responded by ordering a probe into the top three leaders of the opposition, on suspicion of trying to incite followers to overthrow Morsi.
The opposition, the National Salvation Front, has alleged frauds and irregularities in the December 15 and 22 split referendum on the new charter and accuses Morsi's Muslim Brotherhood of wanting to use the constitution to introduce creeping strict Islamic sharia law.
Morsi hailed the charter as "a new dawn" for his country.
The political instability has hammered the country's tourism industry, its major source of foreign revenue, and has also scared off foreign investment.
The key points of the approved draft constitution are:
- Islam remains Egypt's official religion. The previous formulation that the "principles of sharia" are the main source of legislation is maintained.
However, these principles are broadened to include Sunni Muslim doctrinal interpretations.
- "Freedom of faith is guaranteed" -- but only for Islam, Christianity and Judaism, not for other religions.
- The president is limited to two consecutive four-year terms, not indefinitely as under Mubarak.
- The defense minister is chosen from within the military. Also, the military's budget will be decided by a committee dominated by military officers, effectively making it independent of civilian oversight.
- Civilians will not be tried in military courts except in cases where the "crimes may harm the armed forces." The opposition and rights groups demand that this vaguely defined exception be removed.
- The charter upholds "the equality of citizens under the law without discrimination," but omits an explicit mention of equality of the sexes.
- Freedom of expression is protected -- except when it comes to "insults against physical persons" or "insults towards the prophets." Some fear those exceptions open the door to censorship.
- The state is the designated protector of "public morals and order."
- It is forbidden for Egypt to sign international treaties and conventions that go against the constitution.