Middle East

US pledges $450m to back Egypt's faltering economy

US Secretary of State John Kerry and Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi in Cairo. Photo: 3 March 2013
Image caption John Kerry described the talks with President Mohammed Morsi as "candid"

US Secretary of State John Kerry has pledged $450m (£300m) to support Egypt's faltering economy but warned Cairo that "more hard work" is needed.

Mr Kerry's comments came after talks with President Mohammed Morsi.

He urged Mr Morsi to ensure April polls were free, fair and transparent.

His visit came amid unrest over a trial of alleged perpetrators of football riots last year. Hours after Mr Kerry left, a policeman was killed in the city of Port Said, the army said.

A military officer was among several hundred wounded in the unrest, as police dispersed a crowd of about 5,000 protesters with tear gas.

The battle continued into the night and at one point Egyptian soldiers intervened by forming a line between protesters and police, witnesses said.

Mr Kerry's departure from Cairo was delayed because hundreds of al-Ahly football supporters blocked the road to the airport demanding justice over the 2012 Port Said riot in which 74 fans died.

Sharply divided

April's elections are being boycotted by the main opposition group, amid continuing mass protests.

The secular National Salvation Front (NSF) says electoral laws favour allies of President Morsi - a charge he denies.

Egypt remains sharply divided between Islamists and their liberal and secular opponents.

More than 70 people were killed in violence between security forces and protesters following the second anniversary of the revolution that ousted President Hosni Mubarak.

Image caption Egypt has been wracked by political tension for months

"It is clear that more hard work and compromise will be required to restore unity, political stability and economic health to Egypt," Mr Kerry said after Sunday's talks - on the second day of his visit to Egypt.

"In all my meetings, I conveyed a simple but serious message: the brave Egyptians who stood vigil in (Cairo's) Tahrir Square did not risk their lives to see that opportunity for a brighter future squandered.

"The Egyptian people must come together to address their economic challenge," Mr Kerry stressed.

He also said that Washington would now be providing the first $190m of the pledged $450m in budget support funds for Egypt.

Mr Kerry earlier urged the Egyptian government the government to reach a deal on $4.8bn IMF loan that could unlock more US funds.

Mr Morsi's government agreed the loan in principle last November but it was later put on hold amid the continuing street protests.

John Kerry's first overseas trip as secretary of state is taking him to 11 countries in Europe and the Middle East.