Last updated: 20 January, 2012

Obama pushes democracy with Egypt’s ruler

US President Barack Obama called Egypt’s top ruler Field Marshal Hussein Tantawi Friday, to discuss Egypt’s pending IMF loan and to stress the need for a democratic transition despite recent strife.

The White House also said that Obama argued that it was vital for civil society and non-governmental organizations to be allowed to operate freely in Egypt’s new political structures and also discussed regional security issues.

(Obama) “welcomed the historic seating of the lower house of Egypt’s Parliament and offered his congratulations to the Egyptian people on taking this important step towards democracy,” a White House statement said.

“The two leaders discussed Egypt’s economic situation and the ongoing discussions between Egypt and the International Monetary Fund on an economic program that can garner the broad support of the Egyptian people.”

The IMF said this week that Egypt was seeking to build a political consensus in favor of a much-needed financial support program worth around $3.2 billion designed to create a strong economic recovery.

The economy and government finances have deeply suffered, especially from the loss of tourism income, since the uprising early last year that led to former president Hosni Mubarak’s ouster.

Islamists are poised to dominate Egypt’s first parliament since the popular uprising that toppled Mubarak, and Washington has been testing the views of the Muslim Brotherhood, the largest group, on Egypt’s 1979 peace deal with Israel.

Former US president Jimmy Carter, who negotiated the 1978 Camp David accords, said last week that Islamist parties had promised to honor the document, which is the foundation of regional security and American foreign policy in the region.