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Egypt needs consensus for IMF deal

US State Secretary says Egypt needs political consensus to secure an IMF loan for economic reforms.

Egypt President Mohammed Mursi. Picture: AFP

CAIRO - Secretary of State John Kerry will stress the importance Egypt achieves political consensus for painful economic reforms needed to secure an IMF loan, a senior US official said on Saturday.

Kerry arrived in Egypt on his first visit to the Arab world since taking office for talks with the leaders of a country mired in political and economic crisis two years after the overthrow of autocrat Hosni Mubarak.

With Egypt's pound and foreign currency reserves sliding, the official said that if Cairo could agree on a $4.8 billion loan from the IMF, this would bring in other funds from the United States, European Union and Arab countries.

However, the official said the United States believed Egypt needed to increase tax revenues and reduce energy subsidies - measures likely to prove highly unpopular.

"His basic message is it's very important to the new Egypt for there to be a firm economic foundation," the official told reporters as Kerry flew to Cairo.

"In order for there to be agreement on doing the kinds of economic reforms that would be required under an IMF deal there has to be a basic political ... agreement among all of the various players in Egypt," the official said on condition of anonymity.

Egypt said on Thursday it would invite a team from the International Monetary Fund to reopen talks on the loan and the investment minister expressed hope that a deal could be done by the end of April.

The loan was agreed in principle last November but put on hold at Cairo's request during street violence the following month that flared in protest at a planned rise in taxes.

While the tax rise was withdrawn, Islamist President Mohamed Mursi is likely to face violent protests as any cuts in subsidies demanded by the IMF will push up living costs in a country where poverty is rife.

Energy subsidies soak up about 20 percent of the government budget, bloating a deficit set to soar to 12.3 percent of annual economic output this financial year.

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