BEIRUT

Middle East

Germany delays Egypt debt relief amid dictatorship fears

  • A protester chains his hands during a protest in Tahrir Square in Cairo, Egypt, Monday, Dec. 17, 2012. (AP Photo/Hassan Ammar)

BERLIN: Germany said Monday it has postponed debt relief for Egypt due to concerns about Cairo's commitment to democracy, as a minister expressed fears the country could be heading back to dictatorship.

A spokesman for the overseas development ministry said that a plan to forgive up to 240 million euros ($316 million) of Cairo's debt had been delayed indefinitely.

"It is true that the planned partial debt relief will not come for now," he told a regular government news briefing. "That does not mean it has been cancelled for good."

The remarks came after Development Minister Dirk Niebel said that he had serious reservations about the policies of President Mohamed Mursi.

"There is the danger that the dictatorial system of ousted president (Hosni) Mubarak is returning," he told the daily Berliner Zeitung.

Niebel told the newspaper that the German government had cancelled talks on development aid scheduled for mid-December and that future assistance was dependent on Egypt's progress toward democracy and the rule of law.

"It is up to the Egyptian government," he said.

Egypt's opposition called for mass protests to be held Tuesday after Islamists backing Mursi claimed victory in the first round of a constitutional referendum that opponents allege was riddled with polling violations.

The opposition says the constitution weakens human rights, especially those of women, and undermines the independence of judges while strengthening the hand of the military.

It fears Islamists propelled into power after the revolution last year that toppled the 30-year regime of Mubarak want to establish sharia-style rule.

Mursi argues that the slender majority support he won in June presidential elections gives him a mandate for change and that the draft constitution is a key step to securing stability.

 
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