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Egypt's new leader visits China seeking investment
by Staff Writers
Beijing (AFP) Aug 28, 2012

Egypt's president met his Chinese counterpart in Beijing on Tuesday, seeking in his first state visit outside the Arab world to win badly needed investment and expand diplomatic ties.

Mohamed Morsi took over in June as Egypt's first freely-elected civilian and Islamist leader after protests toppled his long-ruling, US-allied predecessor Hosni Mubarak.

But he faces tough economic challenges in the wake of the uprising, which severely affected foreign investment. Egypt still receives $1.3 billion a year in aid from the United States, but most of that goes to the military.

Trade with China, whose Communist leaders were rattled by the wave of mass protests that swept the Arab world last year, reached $8.8 billion last year, up 40 percent from 2008, according to the Chinese Ministry of Commerce.

Chinese President Hu Jintao told Morsi in talks on Tuesday that selecting China for his first official trip outside the Arab world showed a commitment to build ties.

"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," Hu said.

After the talks, the two countries signed several agreements, including a pledge by Beijing to provide police cars to Egypt and an accord for the China Development Bank to offer $200 million in credit to the National Bank of Egypt.

Other agreements signed covered agriculture, the environment, telecommunications, tourism and science, but details were not immediately given.

Egypt's assistant planning minister has said that planned agreements for the visit included a power station, a desalination plant, industrial bakeries and Internet development.

Morsi's spokesman Yasser Ali said the two leaders also discussed the violence in Syria.

"There is an understanding from both sides that we have to work together to stop (the) bleeding in Syria's streets," he told reporters, adding neither Egypt nor China would accept foreign military intervention in Syria.

China has repeatedly called for political dialogue and efforts by the United Nations to resolve the Syria crisis, but it has vetoed UN Security Council resolutions on the issue, putting it at odds with the United States.

China's state-run media have also highlighted Morsi's decision to make Beijing his first official trip outside the Arab world, which Egypt expert Peter Mandaville said marked a willingness to expand diplomatic ties beyond the country's historic ally, the United States.

"The symbolism of it is important in terms of that broader effort by Egypt to signal that it's going to diversify its portfolio of relationships," said Mandaville, a professor at George Mason University in the United States.

"In the short term I think it's absolutely the case that Egypt, given its own economic situation, is pretty desperate to attract some lucrative Chinese investment."

Unlike Chinese economic support, US aid to Egypt comes with conditions -- a sore point for many Egyptians, Mandaville noted.

Morsi's visit coincides with a joint business forum in Beijing to be attended by some 80 Egyptian business leaders.

He will meet China's Premier Wen Jiabao, Vice President Xi Jinping and top legislator Wu Bangguo on Wednesday.

After his three-day trip Morsi will attend the Non-Aligned Movement Summit in Iran, becoming Egypt's first leader in 30 years to visit the nation.

He will go to Washington next month after attending the UN General Assembly in New York.


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