IMF team arrives in Egypt for talks on $4.8bn loan

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International Monetary Fund (IMF) officials have arrived in Egypt for talks on a $4.8 billion loan aimed at easing the economic crisis in the country.

The IMF delegation arrived on Tuesday for a visit lasting several days, according to Egypt’s MENA press agency.

The delegation was today expected to meet privately with the Egyptian Planning Minister Ashraf El Araby at 10.30am in Cairo, Al Arabiya has learnt. The IMF team is then expected to meet with Egypt's Prime Minister Hesham Qandil along with other ministers.

Egypt’s foreign currency reserves have fallen to critically low levels, and the country is struggling to buy wheat and fuel. It is seeking a loan of around $4.8 billion from the IMF, along with support from other international funds.

Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East and Central Asia department, told Al Arabiya earlier this week that the final value of any loan granted to Egypt will vary depending on the country’s needs.

He suggested that the loan will be disbursed in stages over a two-year period should an agreement be reached.

“The IMF loan... will be determined by the team that is working with the authorities and the loan will be disbursed over various stages within a certain time frame, this could be over more than two years, and this is to support [Egypt’s economic reform] program that is being implemented,” Ahmed told Al Arabiya.

The Egyptian government has been working on an economic reform program aimed at cutting its budget deficit, which has risen to 8.2 percent of GDP.

Talks with the IMF have been going on for almost two years, but have faced stumbling blocks. President Mohamed Mursi's government inked a deal last November but postponed ratification amid fresh unrest in Egypt.

"We started working with Egypt nearly two years ago and we reached an agreement twice, but the Egyptian authorities have requested more time,” Ahmed said.

Ahmed confirmed that another IMF meeting will take place on April 19 and 20, and he hoped an agreement can be reached between both sides by that time.

The IMF’s arrival in Egypt came as the fund agreed to provide approximately one billion euros to the 10-billion-euro rescue plan for cash-strapped Cyprus, according to a statement from managing director Christine Lagarde.

Lagarde said she expects the deal to go to the IMF executive board for approval in early May.

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