Morsi supporters continue protests; Gulf States offer billions in aid

Saudi Arabia and UAE offer $8 billion in aid to Egypt; Parliamentary vote set to be held in 6 months.

July 9, 2013 22:38
3 minute read.
Republican Guards stand in line at a barricade blocking protesters supporting deposed Morsi.

egypt Republican Guards stand in line 370. (photo credit: REUTERS)

Egypt’s interim president Adli Mansour named liberal economist and former finance minister Hazem el- Beblawi as prime minister in a transitional government, as the authorities sought to steer the country toward new parliamentary and presidential elections.

Mansour decreed overnight that a parliamentary vote would be held in about half a year, faster than many expected. This would be followed by a presidential election, and an amended constitution would be put to a referendum.

The constitutional declaration that Mansour outlined gives the president wide-ranging authority and keeps many articles that were in the previous constitution, approved in December 2012 and suspended last week, according to a report in Ahram Online.

The Muslim Brotherhood, aligned with ousted Islamist president Mohamed Morsi, rejected the plan. Senior Brotherhood figure Essam el- Erian condemned the “decree issued after midnight, by a person appointed by the putschists, usurping the legislative power from a council elected by the people, and bringing the country back to stage zero.”

Beblawi won acceptance from the hard-line Islamist Nour Party, which is being included by the military-backed interim government so as not to totally alienate Islamists.

Writing in Asia Times, David P. Goldman (known as “Spengler”) asserted that the reason the Nour Party has been cooperating with the military is that it is funded by the Saudis. When the Brotherhood was in power, wrote Goldman, it received backing from Qatar, which in the past year, spent a third of its foreign exchange on loans to keep the Islamist government afloat.

Egypt’s prosecutor-general began investigating 650 people suspected of involvement in violence that killed at least 55 people in front of a military compound in Cairo on Monday, the state news agency said. Soldiers shot at the crowd protesting last week’s military overthrow of Morsi. The army claimed that some of the protesters attacked troops at the Republican Guard compound.

Gehad el-Haddad, a spokesman for the Brotherhood and a former adviser to Morsi, stated in The Washington Post Tuesday that “Egypt is headed back into the dark ages – to the age of [ousted leader Hosni] Mubarak and his cronies, security forces, military henchmen and corrupt judiciary.”

The Islamist regime in Turkey, which condemned the coup, has been calling for Morsi’s reinstatement.

Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu has been calling world leaders in support of the deposed president, according to a report Tuesday in the Hurriyet Daily News.

In response to the Turkish activism, Egypt’s Foreign Ministry summoned the Turkish ambassador over “Ankara’s interference in Egyptian domestic affairs,” stated the state news agency.

Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia approved $5 billion in aid to Egypt on Tuesday, and the United Arab Emirates has offered $3b. in desperately needed support for the economy.

The Saudi funds comprise a $2b. central-bank deposit, $2b. in energy products and $1b. in cash, Saudi Finance Minister Ibrahim al-Assaf told Reuters.

Egypt has struggled to pay for imports since the 2011 uprising that pushed Mubarak out of the presidency, driving away tourists and foreign investors, two of its main sources of foreign currency.

Since then it has run through more than $20b. in reserves, borrowed billions from abroad and delayed payments to oil companies.

The UAE will make a $1b. grant to Egypt and a $2b. loan, state news agency WAM said on Tuesday. The $2b. loan would take the form of an interest-free deposit with Egypt’s central bank, WAM said.

“The UAE stands by Egypt and its people at this stage and trusts the choices of its people,” WAM quoted National Security Adviser Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed as saying. “Egypt’s security and stability are the basis of Arab security.”

The rise of Morsi’s Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt since 2011 has unsettled most Gulf Arab states, including the UAE, which feared it would embolden Islamists at home.

Hazza and UAE Foreign Minister Sheikh Abdullah bin Zayed flew to Cairo on Tuesday morning, at the head of the most senior foreign delegation to visit Egypt since Morsi’s overthrow.

The UAE’s $3b. was expected to be part of a larger financial package from the Gulf emirate, the Egyptian source said.

Economists warn that the aid will be of only short-term value if Egypt does not use it to overhaul its finances.

In the first five months of 2013 alone, the deficit nearly doubled from the previous year to 113.4 b. Egyptian pounds ($16.2b.), according to Finance Ministry figures. Annualized, this would be about 15 percent of GDP, according to one economist.

Ariel Ben Solomon contributed to this report.

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