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China to lend Egypt $200m as leaders meet in Beijing

Egypt hopes to boost Chinese investment to $3b from the current $500m

Gulf News

Beijing: China promised a $200 million (Dh735.6 million) loan to Egypt and the two sides signed deals in agriculture, the environment and telecommunications as Egyptian President Mohammad Mursi sought to boost ties in a trip to Beijing.

China Development Bank pledged the credit to the National Bank of Egypt, according to a deal that was signed after Mursi met with his counterpart, President Hu Jintao, in Beijing on Tuesday.

The agreement came on the first leg of Mursi’s two-nation trip that will also include Iran, a stop that has raised concern in the US and Israel about Egypt’s foreign policy. Mursi has signalled a foreign policy that may shift away from the US ties built by Hosni Mubarak, his predecessor who was ousted in a mass uprising last year.

“Since taking office, Mr President has chosen China as one of his first countries to visit and this fully shows that your country attaches great importance to the desire to develop relations with China,” Hu said when the two leaders met in Beijing on Tuesday, according to a pool report.

Egypt hopes to boost Chinese investment to $3 billion from the current $500 million, the state-run Al-Ahram newspaper reported on Tuesday, citing Hassan Malek, head of a business delegation accompanying Mursi. Egypt wants to sign eight agreements with China, offering investment projects in agriculture, tourism and infrastructure, the report said.

No details were available about the China Development Bank loan. Other agreements signed by the two sides focused on issues including agriculture, the environment and tourism. China also agreed to provide Egypt with police cars, according to the agreements.

A commentary published yesterday by China’s state-run Xinhua News Agency said the two sides have maintained “steady and robust cooperation despite Egypt’s social turmoil.” Trade rose to $8.8 billion last year, the report said.

It said that China has extended its “helping hand” to push economic recovery in Egypt. It said the two sides want to work together on a range of international issues including the conflict in Syria, where China has vetoed UN resolutions aimed at speeding up Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s departure.

“Egypt could be a bridge for China to strengthen cooperation with the whole Arab world and the African continent within the UN and other international organizations,” the Xinhua commentary said.

In Iran, Mursi is scheduled to address the Non-Aligned Movement summit on August 30 and will remain in the country for only a few hours, his office has said. The trip is the first by an Egyptian president to Tehran since the 1979 Islamic Revolution. Ties between Egypt and Iran since then have been run through intermediaries.

Israel and the US have pressed Mursi not to attend the summit, arguing that it could send a signal of legitimacy to the government of President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad as it remains locked in a dispute with the US and its allies over Iran’s nuclear programme. Egyptian officials have downplayed the trip, whose main purpose is the handing over of the NAM leadership to the Iranians, Yasser Ali, Mursi’s spokesman, said in emailed comments.