UPDATE 1-IMF, Egypt say working to reach loan deal in 'coming weeks'

Sun Apr 21, 2013 7:53pm EDT

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WASHINGTON, April 21 (Reuters) - The International Monetary Fund and Egyptian officials said on Sunday they were working to reach a deal on a proposed $4.8 billion loan in "coming weeks," citing progress in weekend talks in Washington.

"Work will continue with the objective of reaching agreement on an IMF stand-by arrangement to support the authorities' national economic program in the coming weeks," IMF Managing Director Christine Lagarde and Egyptian finance officials said in a joint statement.

The talks, held on the sidelines of twice-yearly meetings of the IMF and World Bank, included Egypt's central bank governor, Hisham Ramez, Finance Minister Al-Mursi al-Sayed Hejazy, and Planning Minister Ashraf El-Araby.

The statement said Egypt was "firmly committed to addressing its economic and financial challenges with the objective of restoring sustained and socially balanced growth, and they are already taking encouraging actions in this direction".

Egypt's economy has deteriorated since street protests in 2011 led to the overthrow of former President Hosni Mubarak. Tourism and investment have shriveled and the budget deficit has risen sharply, while foreign currency reserves have shrunk.

An IMF deal would help shore up investor confidence and ensure the country is tackling problems in its economy. The deal would include the gradual reforms of costly fuel subsidies, that swallow about 21 percent of the budget or 12 percent of gross domestic product.

Lagarde told a news conference last week that IMF and Egyptian officials were working to "align" more economic data.

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