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Kerry in Egypt for talks with political leaders

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(Globalpost/GlobalPost)

US Secretary of State John Kerry arrived in Cairo on Saturday for talks with the leaders of Egypt and their opposition, amid political turmoil and a crippling economic crisis.

Kerry, who arrived from Turkey, is due to hold talks with Islamist President Mohamed Morsi, as well as political parties, business leaders and civil society groups during his two-day visit.

"He is working to touch base with the government, with the military, with people involved in the new Egypt: the political leaders, NGO leaders, the business people," a state department official said.

But two leading dissidents, Mohamed ElBaradei and Hamdeen Sabahi of the National Salvation Front (NSF) said they would not be meeting with Kerry, after Washington's call for them to reconsider a boycott of next month's parliamentary elections.

Kerry will however hold talks with former Arab League chief Amr Mussa, another NSF leader, Mussa said in a statement.

A state department official told reporters that Kerry was open to talks with all political parties.

Kerry "will not tell them what to do" but will underscore that "the only way to be heard is to participate in the elections," the official told reporters.

The National Salvation Front, the leading opposition coalition, pulled out of the staggered legislative elections scheduled to start on April 22, expressing doubts over their transparency.

The opposition, less organised than the Muslim Brotherhood, insists the president appoint a new government before the election. The presidency says the new parliament should have the right to appoint the cabinet.

Egypt has been deeply divided in recent months between Morsi's mainly Islamist allies and a wide-ranging opposition.

The country has been gripped by nationwide unrest in recent months, with protesters taking to the streets to denounce Morsi for failing to address political and economic concerns.

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http://www.globalpost.com/dispatch/news/afp/130302/kerry-egypt-talks-political-leaders