UPDATE 1-Egypt has sent IMF invitation to loan talks - minister

Tue Mar 5, 2013 12:19pm EST

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CAIRO, March 5 (Reuters) - Egypt has invited the International Monetary Fund (IMF) to visit and reopen loan negotiations, a government minister said on Tuesday, a step seen as crucial to ease an economic crisis stemming from two years of political turmoil.

Egypt and the IMF agreed the $4.8 billion loan in principle as long ago as November but the following month Cairo requested a delay as a wave of protests swept the country.

IMF support is vital for the North African country where foreign currency reserves have depleted to critically low levels and the budget deficit has soared.

The invitation was sent after the government submitted a revised programme aimed at reducing the budget deficit to less than 11 percent of gross domestic product by the fiscal year 2013-2014, Planning and International Cooperation Minister Ashraf al-Araby told reporters during a visit to Iraq.

Egypt's finance minister said on Sunday that he expected a deal with the IMF would be sealed before parliamentary elections start next month, a timetable economists say is ambitious.

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