Egyptian Vice President Omar Suleiman said the dialogue he has opened with opposition movements is the only alternative to the “chaos” of regime change, as protests to demand a faster transition regained momentum.
“There will be no overthrow of the regime because this will lead to chaos, which will take the country into the unknown,” Suleiman told local media chiefs yesterday, the official Middle East News Agency reported. The talks that began this week, involving the Muslim Brotherhood and other groups, “are the first way to achieve stability in the country and to get out of the current crisis peacefully.”
Tens of thousands of Egyptians filled Cairo’s Tahrir Square yesterday in what may have been the largest demonstration in almost two weeks of protests that have left some 300 dead. Mubarak’s pledge last week to step down in September failed to placate the protesters, who say he must go now. Many also reject the talks started by Suleiman, who has promised steps within a month toward a new constitution and free elections.
The uprising shut down Egypt’s financial system and hurt the outlook for economic growth. The country’s bonds and credit default swaps have pared losses since Suleiman’s negotiations began. Yields on Egypt’s dollar bonds due in 2020 rose 7 basis points to 6.43 percent at 11:44 a.m. in Cairo, after reaching a record 7.21 percent on Jan. 31.
The central bank stepped in to buy Egyptian pounds yesterday, halting the currency’s slide. It rose 1.3 percent, paring most of the previous two days’ losses. The pound was little changed at 5.8783 to the dollar today. The stock market is due to reopen on Feb. 13 and banks including Citigroup Inc. are restoring services.
Suleiman said the country’s economic growth, which relies on tourism and foreign investment, may slow to 3.4 percent in the current fiscal year, from 5.1 percent. The government was predicting 6 percent growth before the political crisis.
Egypt has been one of the biggest recipients of U.S. aid since Mubarak came to power 30 years ago. His government has helped Israel impose a blockade on the Gaza Strip, a policy not supported by most Egyptians, and opposed Iran’s nuclear program.
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