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Abdel Fattah el-Sisi leaves for US to meet Donald Trump

News - Middle East

Seeking a renewed relationship, President Sisi sets off to meet Trump after nearly four years of tension with US.

 Abdel Fattah el-Sisi

Egyptian President Abdel Fattah el-Sisi left Cairo for Washington where both sides will seek a renewed relationship after tensions over Sisi's crackdown on opponents.

As well as meeting President Donald Trump, Sisi will see the top officials at the World Bank and International Monetary Fund, where he will pitch for help with his country's ailing economy.

A senior White house official said on Friday that Trump "wants to use President Sisi's visit to reboot the bilateral relationship and build on the strong connection the two presidents established when they first met in New York last September".

The trip will be Sisi's first US state visit since being elected president in 2014 as former US President Barack Obama had never extended an invitation.

The bilateral relationship was strained when Obama criticised Sisi for cracking down on the Muslim Brotherhood.

Sisi was elected a year after leading the military's ousting of the Muslim Brotherhood's president Mohamed Morsi after mass protests.

The country is fighting an insurgency in Sinai, and hundreds of Egyptian soldiers and police have been killed fighting armed groups.

Egypt has been negotiating billions of dollars in aid from various lenders to help revive an economy hit by political upheaval since a 2011 revolt and to ease a dollar shortage that has crippled imports, drove away foreign investors and hampered its recovery.

Egypt received the first tranche of a three-year $12bn loan deal with the IMF and is expecting to receive the second tranche soon.

The second tranche of a $3bn loan from the World Bank was disbursed to Egypt last month.

The statement said Sisi is also scheduled to meet with leaders of the American chamber of commerce and heads of major United States companies to discuss investment opportunities in Egypt.

Trump's 'fantastic guy' 

When Sisi meets Trump on Monday during his first state visit to Washington, he will see a counterpart who better appreciates his "mission" to fight rebels and armed groups, without Obama's hand-wringing over human rights.

"As a matter of fact President-elect Trump has shown deep and great understanding of what is taking place in the region as a whole and what is taking place in Egypt," Sisi, who met Trump in September before his election, said in an interview.

A senior White House official said Friday that Trump wants to "build on the strong connection the two presidents established" then.

"He's a fantastic guy. Took control of Egypt, and he really took control of it," he told Fox Business of the period after Morsi's overthrow which saw hundreds of protesters killed and thousands detained.

Over the past three years, Sisi has met a trickle of delegations from American think-tanks and other groups, drumming home the importance of supporting him.

Egypt is part of the international coalition against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) group, but is bogged down fighting the armed group's franchise in the Sinai Peninsula, where they have killed hundreds of soldiers and policemen.

Western officials who requested anonymity told AFP news agency that Egypt is primarily interested in advanced military hardware it believes Western countries are withholding.

Cairo also wants conventional equipment that Washington believes is not useful for a counter-insurgency campaign.

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