CAIRO U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry promised Sunday to give Egypt $190 million to help the government pay its bills, but said more money would require that Egyptian President Mohammed Morsi move quickly to resolve the country's differences with the International Monetary Fund, reform its security services and take steps to provide equal rights for women and religious minorities.
Kerry's statement, which came at the end of "very candid and constructive" talks with Morsi, was the closest the United States has come to criticizing the Egyptian president, who took office last summer as the country's first democratically elected leader. But Sunday's announcement also exposed the limits of U.S influence on a country that was once considered a major ally.
"The United States can and wants to do more," Kerry said. "When Egypt takes the difficult steps to strengthen its economy and build political unity and justice, we will work with our Congress at home on additional support."
Kerry also announced that the United States would give $60 million for "direct support of key engines of democratic change." Those groups would include liberal and secular groups that have opposed Morsi's government and what they call the monopolization of power by the Muslim Brotherhood, the Islamist society through which Morsi rose to prominence.
The statement satisfied neither the opposition, which said Kerry should have pressed Morsi harder, nor Morsi's supporters, who said the United States should respect Morsi's election and allow him time to govern.
During their meeting, which lasted more than two hours, Kerry and Morsi discussed Syria and Iran, as well as the economic, political and human rights situation in Egypt, Kerry said in his statement. But there was no mention of whether U.S. officials raised the ongoing case against U.S. and Egyptian workers for nongovernmental political and aid groups who are on trial for operating illegally here.
Kerry also met with the ministers of defense and foreign affairs and six of 11 opposition leaders. The rest refused to meet with Kerry, highlighting the division within the opposition movement just weeks ahead of parliamentary elections.
Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported that the military intervened in clashes between thousands of protesters and police Sunday in the Suez Canal city of Port Said, as violence continued to rock Egypt two years after the uprising that ousted longtime ruler Hosni Mubarak.