UAE to help rebuild Egypt with Dh11bn aid package
CAIRO // The UAE approved a massive Dh11 billion aid package for the people of Egypt yesterday.
The move was a show of support for the interim government's attempts to restore stability after the removal from office of the Islamist president Mohammed Morsi.
Sheikh Hazza bin Zayed, the National Security Adviser, flew in person to Cairo to offer the aid in meetings with Egypt's interim president Adly Al Mansour and defence minister General Abdel Fattah El Sisi.
The UAE pledged a $1 billion grant and $2bn in the form of a zero-interest loan. Sheikh Hazza said the aid was part of a long-standing tradition of the UAE "supporting the Egyptian people at critical historic moments".
"The UAE expresses its confidence in the ability of the Egyptian people to overcome this historic stage in its progress with wisdom and capability to preserve state institutions and address challenges so as to achieve a comprehensive development that reflects Egypt's history and great civilisation," he said.
In a further financial boost, Saudi Arabia said it would send a total of $5bn, including a $2bn deposit to Egypt's Central Bank, $1bn of cash and $2bn worth of energy products. Egypt is in dire need of cash to prop up its ailing economy, which has deteriorated over the past two and a half years of political deadlock following the resignation of Hosni Mubarak in 2011.
Sporadic bouts of violence have scared away foreign investors and many tourists. Unemployment has risen and petrol shortages were chronic, adding to the popular anger that led to Mr Morsi's removal.
He relied heavily on Qatar for financial assistance during his year in office, with Egypt receiving $5bn worth of loans and grants. Qatar also bought $3bn of Egyptian bonds.
The interim government also received a boost from the UAE construction conglomerate Al Habtoor Group. The group's chairman, Khalaf Ahmad Al Habtoor, donated 10 million Egyptian pounds (Dh5.2m) to the Support Egypt fund, which was set up by Egyptian businessmen and has the backing of Egypt's central bank.
"I urge all GCC citizens to support their brothers and sisters in Egypt. It is our duty to support this fund and help Egypt get back on its feet," Mr Al Habtoor said.
The aid from the UAE will give Egypt's interim government breathing room to focus its efforts on the political transition, which was unveiled in more detail yesterday.
Hazem Beblawi, a former minister of finance, was named interim prime minister. Mohamed ElBaradei, the Nobel-prize winning diplomat, was appointed vice president for foreign affairs.
Mr ElBaradei was originally nominated as prime minister but was blocked by the Al Nour party, an ultraconservative group that threatened to withdraw its support of the removal of Mr Morsi if the former diplomat was appointed.
The interim president also yesterday released a constitutional declaration that spelt out a six-month road map for new elections and amending the constitution.
The document calls for a new committee to be formed to amend the 2012 constitution, which was suspended by the military when Mr Morsi was ousted. The committee of 10 senior judges, law professors and government lawyers will have one month to draw up a list of amendments that will be scrutinised by another committee of 50 people drawn from across society.
The final draft of a new constitution should then be finished within 60 days, followed by a 60-day public consultation period. One month thereafter, the document will be put to a national yes-or-no vote.
Swift elections would follow the new constitution's approval, beginning with parliamentary elections after two weeks, and then a presidential elections.
Mr Al Mansour will hold both executive and legislative powers until a new parliament is elected.
Mazen Hassan, a professor of political science at Cairo University, said the plan laid out by the new government "will not be an easy process".
"All the factions will be against each other. The fact that they failed for three days to agree on an interim prime minister shows how difficult the transition is going to be."
In a sign of trouble to come, the plans were immediately attacked by the Muslim Brotherhood, whose members are reeling from the tumultuous events of the past week. In less than a week, Mr Morsi, a former deputy leader of the group, has been cast from office and more than 50 of hissupporters were killed by police and army officers early on Monday.
Essam El Erian, a senior official in the Brotherhood's political wing, the Freedom and Justice Party, said yesterday that the plan would take the country back to square one and vowed that pro-Morsi protests would continue until he was reinstated as president.
Brotherhood members have called the attack on protesters an unprovoked massacre and were planning marches yesterday evening to condemn the violence.
The military and police say that they used deadly force only after an army barracks was attacked by gunfire from people in the midst of the protesters.
The coalition of groups that supported Mr Morsi's removal also fractured further yesterday when the Tamarod group - a grass-roots movement that led protests against the former president on the anniversary of his inauguration on June 30 - said the constitutional declaration was dictatorial.
"It is impossible to accept because it founds a new dictatorship," Tamarod said, and the group will put forward an amendment to the interim president.
* Additional reporting by Wam, Reuters and the Associated Press
Updated: July 10, 2013 04:00 AM