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IMF Official’s Egypt Visit Marked by More Unrest

An International Monetary Fund director is slated to meet today with Egyptian officials amid efforts to advance a stalled $4.8 billion loan agreement, a day after opponents and backers of President Mohamed Mursi clashed near the Muslim Brotherhood’s Cairo headquarters.

Masood Ahmed, the head of the Middle East and Central Asia department at the Washington-based lender, and Egyptian officials will discuss the government’s economic program and the other steps in Egypt’s bid for a loan seen as vital for unlocking other donor aid and financing.

The clashes late yesterday outside the Brotherhood’s headquarters underscored tensions boiling over as Mursi, who was fielded for office by the Islamist organization, struggles to revive the economy two years after Hosni Mubarak’s ouster. Protesters pelted riot police with rocks and were rebuffed with tear gas after they set fire to a police truck.

Egypt’s currency is at a record low after the central bank introduced a dollar auction system Dec. 30 aimed at stemming the plunge in foreign reserves, which are down more than 60 percent below their December 2010 levels, at $13.5 billion.

Mursi’s secular and youth activist critics argue he has focused on advancing the Brotherhood’s agenda at the expense of the nation’s interests. Journalists were planning to hold a protest against what they said were attacks by Brotherhood supporters outside the group’s headquarters yesterday, the state-run Ahram Gate reported.

Yesterday’s unrest in Cairo was mirrored on a larger scale in the southern province of Sohag where Mursi pledged to start development projects. Critics of the president attempted to storm a hall where he was speaking, and were pushed back by his backers and riot police, state media reported.

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