* Egypt seeks $4.8 billion from the IMF
* IMF says talks constructive, technical work next
* Egypt faces budget and currency crisis
CAIRO, March 17 The International Monetary Fund
said on Sunday it would continue talks with Egypt aimed at
agreeing possible financial aid after meeting with government
officials seeking a $4.8 billion loan to relieve a currency and
The IMF has said Egypt needs to take bold, immediate action
to address its economic problems and has raised the possibility
of stop-gap funding to tide it through until after parliamentary
elections. Egypt, however, has made clear it wants a full loan.
The country agreed to an IMF loan in principle last November
but requested a delay during violent street unrest. Since then
it has sought to reopen loan talks with the IMF.
"We've had very good progress, and we had very constructive
discussions," Masood Ahmed, director of the IMF's Middle East
and Central Asia department, told reporters after meeting Prime
Minister Hisham Kandil in Cairo.
Both sides agreed on the need to support a national
programme that addresses Egypt's economic challenges, he said,
and in a later statement he welcomed the authorities'
determination to move forward with an economic reform programme.
"We agreed that our discussions would continue diligently
over the coming weeks with the aim of reaching agreement on
possible financial support from the IMF," he said.
Kandil told Ahmed that Egypt's amended economic reform
programme took a more gradual approach to lowering the budget
deficit than the version used in last November's agreement, "in
light of preserving growth rates, employment and protecting the
poor", an Egyptian government statement said.
Ahmed also met central bank Governor Hisham Ramez, Finance
Minister Al-Mursi Al-Sayed Hegazy and Planning Minister Ashraf
Egypt's government faces daunting economic and political
problems two years after the overthrow of Hosni Mubarak.
Street violence and feuds with the opposition have sapped
confidence and foreign reserves have slid to critical levels.
The fiscal deficit is reaching unaffordable levels and Egypt's
pound has fallen more than 8 percent against the dollar this
Last month, President Mohamed Mursi called for elections to
be held between April and June, but a court later cancelled his
decree, throwing the electoral process into limbo.
Analysts say the IMF may be reluctant to offer funding while
no one knows when the elections will be held.
A senior U.S. diplomat said last week it was "absolutely
essential" Egypt sealed an IMF deal as fast as possible because
of shortages of foreign exchange, diesel and raw materials.
The IMF had found Egypt's latest economic proposal
unsatisfactory, the diplomat said, describing the process up to
that point as "exceedingly rocky."
The United States said earlier this month it would give
Egypt $250 million in aid after Mursi promised to take the
painful economic reforms needed to secure an IMF loan.